June 3, 2012

CBI Live: #4 Creighton 7, #3 New Mexico 2

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Bruins end Bluejays’ run, advance to Super Regional

By Abbey Mastracco



LOS ANGELES — Creighton became an intriguing story line in the NCAA Baseball Championships over the past few weeks as the College World Series’ hometown team went from finishing last in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season standings, to shocking the Valley by upsetting highly-touted Indiana State to win the conference tournament, and then playing its way to the finals of the Los Angeles Regional.


College baseball hasn’t had a Cinderella story since Fresno State, also a four-seed, made its historic run through the tournament four years ago, which started just about 20 miles south on the 405 at Long Beach’s Blair Field. The comparisons were made after Creighton knocked off the No. 2 seed, San Diego, Saturday afternoon, which was the very team the Bulldogs defeated to win the Long Beach Regional.


But the Bluejays’ run came to a screeching halt against No. 1 seed and national No. 2 UCLA, on an unseasonably chilly Sunday evening. In front of a crowd of 1,291 at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the Jays were routed by the host Bruins, 13-5.


“I knew going into tonight’s game that we would have to play almost a perfect game to have an opportunity to win,” said Creighton head coach Ed Servais. “But [Creighton] can’t be disappointed with how they played today. They’re going to look back on this season and they’re going to realize how they got it; they came together.”


“It was special,” said catcher Scott Thornburg of the Jays’ run in the postseason. “We came together as a group. That’s something you’ll never forget as a senior.


Creighton (28-30, 2-2 Regional) wasted no time, grabbing a two-run lead in the top of the first off a double from Anthony Bemboom and an RBI groundout from Thornburg.


“They came out and threw a punch and we knew they would,” said UCLA head coach John Savage. “But then all of a sudden it’s 2-2 and it could have gone the other way.”


But the Bruins (45-14, 3-0 Regional), undaunted by the first deficit they had faced all weekend, tied it up in the bottom frame with one swing of the bat by Jeff Gelalich. With two outs, Gelalich crushed a two-run shot over the right field fence, tying the game at 2.


“I think the momentum definitely shifted in their favor a little bit,” Bemoom said. 


The ball stayed firmly in the Bruins’ court, as they broke the game open in the third inning. UCLA batted around and tagged Nick Musec and Mark Winkelman for five runs.


After Winkelman pitched around Gelalich to load the bases, Trevor Brown dropped a two-RBI single into centerfield to give UCLA a 5-2 lead.


With two outs and two on, pinch-hitter Shane Ziele pulled a screaming line drive down the left side to score Brown and make the Bruins’ lead 7-2.


After the Bluejays scored in the top of the fifth, Gelalich matched the effort with another home run, this one a solo shot to right-center to lead off the bottom of the inning. UCLA went on to score another in the fifth and strung together a four-run sixth inning, increasing its lead to 13-3.


Gelalich and Bemboom each finished with monster days at the plate. Gelalich led the Bruins going 3 for 3 with four RBI and three runs. Bemboom, one of the hottest hitters in this weekend’s Regional, went 5 for 5 with a pair of RBI and a run.


However, the performance wasn’t enough to satisfy the hungry senior.


“I’m just trying to give my team the best chance to win,” Bemboom said. “I would have taken an 0-for-5 day for a win.”


Creighton may not have captured the hearts of college baseball nation the way a Cinderella team might have, but don’t tell Savage that. Savage was thoroughly impressed by every facet of Creighton’s program, calling them a “First Class Operation”.


“To be where they were and make that run through the Missouri Valley, that shows you that they never gave up on each other,” Savage said.


Servais, while not thrilled with the outcome of the weekend, was thrilled by the intangibles that Savage didn’t fail to notice:


“I think the people that played us this week, they understand that there’s a certain way in which Creighton plays.”