When we last saw each other, we experienced a mid-70 degree day with a lack of a breeze but a bounty of sunshine. It was one of those unforgettable afternoons, with fans basking in the sunbeams like it was the middle of summer. Even my nose became beat red after spending the day outdoors. It was glorious, and after a long winter, it was a breath of fresh air.
Yet like Eckersley against Gibson in the clutch, or Duda throwing home during Hosmer’s mad dash in game 5, things change. Quickly.
What we were given this evening in Omaha were temperatures in the low-40’s - and that’s being generous - with a stiff wind constantly blowing out. It was frigid and so unlike Sunday afternoon that I’ve become wary of whether or not this truly is some sort of sick simulation with an omnipotent and brutal god.
On Tuesday, the day this game was originally supposed to be played, we were treated to a “Portland Rain,” or a constant light shower of rain, that inevitably pushed the game to tonight. Wichita State had to scramble to find enough hotel rooms for their team, and once that was secured, they were able to play a ballgame tonight.
This is the consolation prize.
Wichita State struck first in the second, putting up a two spot after Austin Stroschein struggled to throw strikes.
Creighton answered back in the bottom of the third when Jason Allbery tripled on a full count to start things off. It took three batters to get him the final 90 feet, yet they accomplished just that after Tommy Luevano lifted a ball deep enough for Allbery to score.
There’s a history between these two programs. They met in the 1991 College World Series, were bitter rivals from start to end in the Missouri Valley, and Gene Stephenson and Ed Servais have had their share of words for one another.
Think Red Sox-Yankees of mid-major baseball.
Now, Gene Stephenson is gone. The Jays are in the BIG EAST. The Shockers are headed to the AAC. A lot has changed.
Not this rivalry, though.
Creighton managed to tie things up and eventually take the lead in the 5th inning. Wichita’s starter began to labor, and with his laboring, he was pulled after allowing two baserunners. Both of these baserunners - Jason Allbery and Tommy Luevano - would come around to score on a Michael Emodi double.
By the time Ryan Tapani came into pitch, the game had hit Creighton’s liking as far as pace of game. The game had picked up a bit, with Wichita continuing to swing for the fences while the Jays’ pitching staff baited them into lazy fly balls.
It was masterful.
Tapani’s 7th (he entered in the 6th and set down the three batters he faced) had a bit of a hiccup, as he allowed a walk and a single, giving Wichita runners on the corners and one out. They’d score the runner on third on a sac fly just two pitches later, and eventually Tapani loaded the bases after a single and intentional walk.
Enter: Dave Gerber.
Gerber managed to get his first batter into a full count. O! The Drama!
He struck him out.
When I speak of this rivalry remaining a rivalry, you could see it in full force in the 9th inning. Typically these mid-week games are just glorified practices, but there was a great deal of tension hanging thick in the cold northern air.
Parker Upton started the 9th off with a single. Jason Allbery, who was already having a career game at the plate, singled to left center field. The center fielder charged in and made a pretty good throw to third base where the speedy Upton was heading.
It was bang-bang. Close. Upon replay he was called safe.
In reality, Upton was called out.
When the call came down, Ed Servais almost immediately spiked his coach’s helmet into the ground and began giving the third base umpire the business. I mean, I’ve seen Servais pretty steamed before, but this was something else. He was fuming, steam pouring from his jacket. On a cold night his voice carried, and upon those gusts of wind were expletives that parents would shake their head and weep at.
It was emotional. The bench wholeheartedly disagreed as well, with the aforementioned Ryan Tapani leading the charge. Home plate umpire Andrew Fulton was having none of it and immediately tossed Tapani from the game.
Like I said before, this game meant something.
As things began to cool down, Clark Brinkman had Allbery standing on second with one out. On a full count pitch, Wichita’s Biechler threw a nasty curveball that nearly scraped the dirt.
Should’ve been ball four.
It wasn’t. Called strike three.
Servais came charging down the line again. More expletives. More words that I used to write but no longer do due to... reasons.
Servais was saying and doing things that should’ve got him tossed immediately. Instead, he remained in the game, pacing up and down the coach’s box.
Creighton would fail to score in the bottom of the ninth, the drama being whisked away, while the tension remained nigh.
Houston Glad came onto pitch the 10th. The junior JUCO kid was electric, getting a huge assist from Will Robertson in right to start things off:
REPLAY | Will Robertson robs the Shockers to open the 10th inning with this diving catch.— Creighton Baseball (@CU_Baseball) April 27, 2017
Top 10th pic.twitter.com/kuSli2KgLQ
The next batter shot a liner to Jason Allbery. Allbery took two steps and snagged it easily.
Glad was able to strike out the next batter swinging, and after a play at first due to a dropped third strike, the top of the tenth came and went quickly and without a lot of fanfare.
Big Bad Michael Emodi led off the bottom of the tenth. If you’re an opponent to the Jays, the last guy you want at the dish with the game on the line is Michael Emodi. He’s as clutch as they come and he carries one mighty wallop.
So, of course, he doubles down the right field line to start off the bottom of the tenth.
Nick Ortega pinch hit for Riley Landuyt, and the speedy Ortega doesn’t necessarily pack a punch but he’s got some burners. Wichita intentionally walked him, just to set up the triple play I guess.
Will Robertson then approached the dish. It only seems fitting that after he’d made a spectacular catch he’d be pegged to get the game winning base hit.
He walked on four straight pitches.
This set up Bryce Only to bat. Bases loaded. No outs.
With Wichita’s infield in, Only swung wildly at the first two offerings. Perhaps a little overeager to play hero, perhaps not, yet after taking a pitch, Only managed to slap a chopper to the left side, just between where the third baseman and short stop were pulled in.
It hopped off the third baseman, then the short stop’s glove, sending the ball skittering towards the foul line at the grass edge.
Watch us win our 11th straight game as Bryce Only's infield single drives home Michael Emodi!!!!!!— Creighton Baseball (@CU_Baseball) April 27, 2017
Wichita State 3
Jays win. Their 11th straight win.
Creighton improved to 19-16 on the year. They get the Musketeers of Xavier this weekend.