June 2, 2012

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Creighton Silences San Diego

By Abbey Mastracco



LOS ANGELES – In the third inning of Saturday’s Regional contest between No. 2 San Diego and No. 4 Creighton, San Diego’s Louie Lechich sent a hard liner right to Creighton shortstop Alex Staehely. Staehely reached across his body to make snag the ball in midair and immediately threw over to second and double up the runner for the third out of the inning.


It was a play that not only was indicative of the way the Bluejays have been playing this weekend, but also characteristic of how a flat Toreros squad has played in its two postseason games as well. Creighton, behind three RBI from Anthony Bemboom, eliminated San Diego with an 8-2 victory.


Paul Sewald started on the hill for the Toreros, trying to get the rotation back on track after closer Michael Wagner started in Friday’s loss. But Sewald (8-4) was ineffective, and lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, walking two and striking out none.


Kris Bryant, who led the Toreros with a triple and a run, struggled to explain the feckless manor in which his team played, saying simply they slumped at the wrong time.


“We were swinging at bad pitches, we weren’t waiting for our pitch. But sometimes it goes that way, you can’t go out there and mash every single game,” Bryant said through tears. “Sometimes teams have slumps.”


Conversely, Creighton starter Shane Liska (3-4) went five innings, giving up one earned run and striking out two, completing a season-long transformation that saw him go from a short reliever to a Saturday starter.


“We needed someone to step up in that rotation,” Creighton head coach Ed Servais said. “He’s gone from pitching one inning on a Sunday to being a Saturday starter. That just goes to show you that if you stay the course and if you keep believing in yourself, you’ll get an opportunity.


“And then when you get an opportunity, you seize it.”


Creighton seized the opportunities presented Saturday, capitalizing on every Toreros mistake, playing efficient defense and still showing an aggressive, win-or-go-home postseason attitude.


The Bluejays (27-29) saw tremendous production from the top of the order, with the first four hitters combining for five runs on eight hits and six RBI. Bemboom (2 for 5) and Chance Ross led the offense with Ross finishing 2 for 3 with two RBI, two runs and two walks.


“I’m very pleased with how the team played today,” Servais said. “I think this is what we’re capable of doing more so than last night.”


The Toreros arms issued free passes in the first five innings and the Blue Jays scored in four of them.


“One thing we wanted do today was get off to a fast start,” Servais said. “Obviously, we didn’t last night, down 3-0. I think it started with our leadoff hitter, he had a tremendous at-bat, got on base, and then we took off from there.”


Creighton set the tone in the first inning. Brad McKewon battled his way to a leadoff walk to open the first. Sewald then gave up back-to-back singles to give the Jays a 1-0 lead. After Bemboom reached on a fielder’s choice, Mike Gerber then drove one to the left-center gap, scoring Ross and giving Creighton a 2-0 edge.


The Bluejays then capitalized fully on two walks and two hit batters for a breakout three-run fourth inning, and kept it going with another pair of runs in the fifth.


“This is what we’re capable of doing,” Servais said. “A lot of people think that our hitters are playing above themselves but I don’t believe that. This is what they’ve been capable of doing from the get-go, it just took us a little longer to get there.”


San Diego stayed put at the 40-win plateau, ending the season at 40-17. Hill made it clear that a team that achieved so much in the regular season expected to do bigger things in June.


“But that’s the beauty of sports,” Hill said. “There’s some pain and there’s some elation. That’s why this thing is awesome.”