By: John Lockwood
Several teams made the most of the last weekend of MVC regular season play, as three of the four series ended in sweeps. Creighton had the toughest task but came out as lone regular season conference champions with their sweep over visiting Missouri State, while Wichita State and Illinois State finished the season with sweeps over Bradley and Evansville, respectively. Elsewhere in the final series of conference play, Southern Illinois took two of three from Indiana State, solidifying fifth-place in the conference tournament, which starts Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. (See College Baseball Daily’s MVC Conference Tournament Preview for more information.)
CBD MVC Players of the Week:
ILS – Fr. RF Brock Stewart, 5-10, 5 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R
CU – So. LHP Ty Blach, W(10-1); 8 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 8 K
Missouri State at Creighton: Jays Claims MVC Regular Season Title
With the MVC Regular Season Championship at hand, Creighton had one of their toughest challenges of the season, taking on Missouri State for their final weekend of conference play. But the Jays proved up to the challenge, sweeping the Bears to take home their first regular season title since 2005. Each game was a closely contested battle, with the winning team never scoring more than three runs. The Jays took game one by a score of 3-2, despite a complete game from Bears starter Nick Petree. The Jays scored three in the bottom of the sixth on RBI doubles from Alex Staehely and Mike Gerber. Chance Ross made it a 3-1 game with a sac fly. Brock Chaffin added an RBI single in the top of the eighth and the Bears loaded the bases, by closer Kurt Spomer came into the game and got Luke Voit to ground out to end the threat.
Game two was another tooth-and-nail contest, with the Jays coming out on top 3-1 to secure at least a share of the regular season championship. The Jays used five different pitchers to quell the Bears offense, and scored two in the second off a Mike Gerber single and Chance Ross fielder’s choice, to go up 3-1. The Bears would threaten in the next half inning, scoring their lone run of the game on a bases loaded walk by Luke Voit. But reliever Chase Webb got Brock Chaffin to ground into an inning ending double play in the last good scoring opportunity the Bears would have all game. Right-hander Pierce Johnson threw 4.2 innings of one-hit baseball for the Bears in relief of starter Gordon Grant.
The Jays secured sole possession of the regular season Valley title with their win in the series finale, again by a score of 3-1. Starter Ty Blach (10-1) tossed a gem, going eight innings allowing just one run on four hits and a walk while punching out eight. The Jays scored back-to-back runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and Trever Adams hit his fourteenth homer of the year to score CU’s final run of the regular season with a solo shot to lead off the seventh.
With the win, CU solidified the #1 seed in the conference tournament, and ensured themselves an opening round game against the Bradley Braves, set to start at 7:30 pm (CST) in Omaha on Tuesday.
CU – So. LHP Ty Blach, W(10-1); 8 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 8 K
Sr. RF Trever Adams, 4-10, HR, RBI, 3 R
Wichita State at Bradley: Shocks Sweeps Braves, Take #2 Seed
Wichita State did everything in their power to put themselves in a position to take home their second consecutive regular season title, sweeping Bradley on the road in Peoria. But while they were unable to secure at least a share of the MVC regular season title, they did give themselves a leg-up in the tournament by securing the #2 seed come Tuesday. The Shockers got a scare Thursday night, coming back from down 5-1 to beat the Braves 8-6. Down 5-1 in the sixth inning, the Shockers got a two-run homerun form Chris O’Brien and a solo shot from Preston Springer, part of season high four-homer day for the Shocks, to pull within one. BU third baseman Rob Elliot homered in the bottom of the inning to extend the Braves lead 6-4. After getting the Braves to groundout with the bases loaded in the seventh, preventing any runs from scoring, the Shockers got a two-run homer from first baseman Johnny Coy to tie the game at six. The Shocks added two more when O’Brien hit a ground ball to short which the shortstop booted allowing the winning runs to score.
The two teams played a double-header on Friday, with Shockers’ pitchers Brian Flynn and Josh Smith combining to allow only one unearned run on the day as WSU swept Bradley by scores of 5-1 and 1-0, respectively. Flynn (5-4) went the distance allowing just one unearned run on five hits, two walks and an impressive 10 K’s. Dick Howser and Johnny Bench Award finalist Chris O’Brien hit his 9th homerun of the season, a two-run shot in the top of the first to give Flynn all the run support he would need in the game. Not to be outdone by his teammate in the series finale, sophomore Josh Smith (7-3) also went the complete game shut-out, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out seven. BU starter John Nasshan (3-7) was also impressive in the loss going 8.1 allowing just one run and only four runners to reach base the entire game.
O’Brien extended his hitting streak to 24 games by hitting safely in all three games on the weekend. The Shockers will take on the #7 seed Evansville in the first round of MVC Conference Tournament at 12:30pm in Omaha on Tuesday.
BU – So. RHP John Nasshan, L(3-7); 8.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K
WSU – Jr. LHP Brian Flynn, W (5-4); CG, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
So. LHP Josh Smith, W (7-3); CG, 5 H, BB, 7 K
Evansville at Illinois State: Redbirds Sweep Aces
Illinois State also finished their season strong, sweeping the Evansville Purple Aces at home over the weekend. Down 3-0 in their series opener, the Redbirds scored five runs in the third inning to come back and win the game 9-4. The freshman pair of Mike Hollenbeck and Brock Stewart made the best of their opportunities in the line-up each going 2-4 with three RBI. Aces third baseman Cody Fick went 2-2 on the day with a double and three runs batted in. Redbird starter Corey Maines picked up his ninth win of the season in 6.1 innings of work.
Game two was another close contest; with each team only score one run through the first six innings. But the Redbirds mounted a late scoring run, and were able to clinch the series with 7-1 victory Friday evening. Redbirds freshman starter Dan Savas went sixing innings allowing just one run in the no decision, while Aces starter Cole Isom (5-4) was tagged for three runs and the loss in his seven inning performance. The Redbirds took the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Brock Stewart hit his third double of the series to start of the inning and was later scored on a safety squeeze by catcher Matt Mirabal. Shortstop Brett Kay followed up, lifting his first career homerun over the left field wall to score two more. ISU would add three more when centerfield Chad Hinshaw would hit a bases-clearing double to wrap-up the scoring in the bottom of the eighth.
The series finale would be a hard-fought battle by both teams, as the Redbirds would eventually complete the sweep with a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon. ISU ran through six different pitchers and got five innings of scoreless relief from the trio of Justin Hauer, Jay Wielebnicki and Kenny Long, who each appeared in all three games over the weekend. The Redbirds scored four runs in the bottom of the first to make the score 4-1. The Aces would score two more in the fifth inning on a Greg Wallace 2 RBI single up the middle, as Wallace knocked-in all three of the Aces runs on the day. But the big three of Hauer, Wielebnick and Long—who only allowed one earned run in 10.2 innings of work on the weekend—shut-down the Aces the rest of the way to hold on for the win. Brock Stewart hit doubles four and five on the weekend, making all five of his hits in the series of the two-bag variety.
With the win, the Redbirds ensured themselves the #3 seed in the tournament and will take on the Indiana State Sycamores, bright and early, at 9 am on Tuesday morning.
UE – Sr. 3B Cody Fick, 5-10, 2B, 3 RBI, R, 2 BB
ISU – Fr. RF Brock Stewart, 5-10, 5 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R
Southern Illinois will have the #5 seed in the conference tournament (taking on #4 Missouri State at 4pm on Tuesday), after taking two of three on the road at Indiana State. The Sycamores took game one of the series, 4-1. ISU starter Colin Rea (7-4) wasn’t perfect, allowing eight hits over seven innings, but consistently pitched out of trouble to hold the Salukis to just one run. For SIU starter Cody Forsythe, it was his first loss in conference-play, and drops him to 8-4 on the season. Sycamores Jeremy Lucas and Tyler Wampler went a combined 5-5, with a homerun and two runs scored on the day. Blake Drake picked up his eighth save of the season.
In game two, the Salukis fired right back, evening up the series with a 5-2 win Friday afternoon. Starter Cameron Maldonado (4-7) allowed just two runs on five this and two walks over seven innings and the Salukis scored all five of their runs in the fourth inning—with the big blow coming on a bases-clearing double by junior Brian Bajer. The Salukis clinched the series with a 9-7 win on Saturday. ISU DH Jeremy Lucas had a 4-5 day, capping off an excellent weekend with a double and four RBIs to boot. SIU’s Austin Montgomery also added four RBI of his own in a 2-4 day. Saluki second baseman Brock Harding hit his first homerun of the season.
SIU – So. DH Austin Montgomery, 4-8, 3 2B, 4 RBI, R
ISU – So. DH Jeremy Lucas, 8-13, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R