The Penultimate 2014 Big East Championship Rematch
There are moments in our lives when revenge seems to be the most delicious answer to those who wronged us. The swirling thoughts of putting sugar in your foe's gas tank seem diabolically simple but as you're awkwardly jamming a paper funnel into a metal cap while balancing a pound of sugar underneath your armpit, suddenly the lust for revenge begins to wane. Usually, revenge is best served with time, as the one who wronged you will eventually meet their comeuppance as the grandeur of schadenfreude pulses through your conscious mind.
In baseball, however, revenge can be doled out in two ways: a punishing fastball to the lower back or to allow father time his opportunity to erode a competent roster and a team's psyche through a multitude of terrible losses at the hands of lesser opponents and the pursuit of greater opportunities. Xavier, a 4-seed in the 2014 Big East tournament, dashed through the losers bracket after losing to Creighton and topped the 1-seed Bluejays in the finale to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. This weekend will be the first time these two ballclubs have met since that fateful day, and oh my how the tables have turned.
1. The Men on the Hill hold all the Power
Pitching in this series will be at a premium. Xavier's Brad Kirschner (2-5, 3.64 ERA) tossed one swell ballgame during his last outing for the Musketeers, going 7 innings and only allowing 3 earned against the high-powered Seton Hall offense. Kirsch will be on the mound on Friday night for Xavier in a pitcher-friendly ballpark which may bode well for the Musketeers if it weren't for these meaningless statistics: Creighton is 4-2 against lefty starters this year, 4-3 in night games and 8-3 in home games. Rollie Lacy, who is up for first team All-Name in the Big East, will be on the hill for Creighton on Friday night and creates havoc for batters as he's struck out 19 thru 26 innings pitched. Xavier's Adam Hall might be a baseball player, as his pitching stats currently read: 1-2 record, 3.82 ERA & 3 dingers allowed. Creighton Head Coach Ed Servais will be absolutely delighted to know that Hall has also allowed 4 sac bunts this year, a statistic Servais would very much enjoy increasing by the end of Hall's outing. Saturday will probably feature Keith Rogalla, most definitely a pitcher for the Creighton Bluejays, who posts statistics such as these: 4.37 ERA, .241 OPP/BA, 1 dinger allowed and a 2-0 record. Sunday will feature Creighton ace TBA and Xavier will send out sacrificial lamb/reliever-turned-starter Greg Jacknewitz.
The set-em-up and knock-em-down tandem of DeCaster and Gerber have been devastating to opponents when appearing out of the bullpen. I believe it'd be safe to say that if DeCaster is in the game with a lead it'd be wise for the opposing batters to politely bow to him, turn to the umpire and say, "He is much to good for me, man in blue. I shall retire for the night. Perhaps tomorrow we shall try again."
As for Xavier, they've lost 5 straight games. All 5 games lost have been due to poor bullpen management.
2. Look out! Bats!
No, not the frightening creature that has nocturnal sleeping cycles and will occasionally fly out of dimly lit places on your adventure walks on Saturday nights (yeah, that's right, I see you going into the abandoned mansion at night) I'm talking of course about offensive production in baseball! Creighton's Reagan Fowler is a monster that wields a powerful yet highly efficient bat. A .347 average mixed with 21 RBIs and only 13 strikeouts in 95 at bats might make him a bat to watch for (more on that later). Xavier's Andre Jernigan, meanwhile, has been hit by a pitch 6 times so far in this young season while still parading around a .267 average and 17 RBIs. Harrison Crawford has been really good for Creighton as well, posting a .287 average with a .414 slugging percentage and 9 RBIs. Xavier's Brian Bruening may be the catalyst for the Musketeer offense this weekend, or perhaps not, but he does post a .261 average with 19 RBIs and a dinger! Yet the player to truly watch for is Creighton's Ryan Fitzgerald who posts an almost unreal .299 average, has collected 17 RBIs and an astounding .471 slugging percentage. Way to go, Ryan! You're our bat to watch for this weekend!
The Saturday match-up between the Musketeers and the Bluejays will be the 100th game at College Baseball's greatest Cathedral that is TD Ameritrade Park. This ballpark has been lambasted by sports writers who whine about how no one can hit dingers there because it's too big and that the prevailing southern winds are constantly blowing in, knocking down every fly ball and creating an easy out. The whiny sports writers speak about moving the fences in to create more dingers to make the game more exciting. These same whiny sports writers also complained about the terrible conditions of press boxes at Rosenblatt Stadium and how they should be renovated so they can be comfortable while writing about a game played on dirt. Everyone loves dingers, sure, but if your love and enjoyment of the game of baseball depends on the amount of dingers hit in a ballgame you should probably take a closer look at the history of the game itself. Have you heard of Ken Burns' Baseball? It's a great treat for the whole family!
Anyways, Xavier currently stands awkwardly at 8-23 on the year and 0-3 in Big East play. Creighton sits comfortably at 17-9 on the year and 2-1 in Big East play.