If you needed a better example of what exactly BIG EAST baseball brings to the table, I don’t know where you’d find it. This game had everything that you could ever hope for, from mind numbing mistakes, to out-of-this-world dong hangings, to lockdown relief pitching.
In the end, Xavier was the victor, because when the month of May rolls around the Musketeers become an unbeatable force of fury. An offensive avalanche that cannot be quelled. A sordid example of relishing in a conference tournament, even though they languished in the regular season - doing just a bit better than the bottom feeders.
They relied on the arm of Garrett Schilling, a kid who wears goggles but doesn’t pitch for strikeouts, he simply relies on his infield to properly field the groundouts his pitches produce. There isn’t any spectacular thing he does but he’s effective enough to keep a few runs off the board.
His counterpart, Keith Rogalla, has overpowering stuff, with a wicked fastball and a baby curve that gets a lot of swings and misses. His folly is that, sometimes, he misses his spots. When he misses, he gets hit. Hard.
Xavier managed to pull a repeat of nearly exactly their start from the night before, putting two runners in scoring position and driving one of them home on a sac fly. Throughout the top half of the inning they worked Rogalla tirelessly, and proceeded to do a lot of the same until the 5th. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Creighton managed to score two in the bottom of the first off an absolute moonshot dong off the bat of Michael Emodi. The ball landed about 10 rows deep into the left field bleachers, showing his offensive prowess to those in attendance. The momentum swung entirely in the Bluejays’ favor.
Rogalla rolled, but was severely taxed, for four innings. He squeaked and squirmed out of various jams, yet proceeded to strike out six batters en route to the faithful 5th inning.
In this fifth inning, I tell ya, things happened. Ethan Schmidt started things off for Xavier by grounding out to third. Then, Rogalla walked Chris Givin, except ball four was a passed ball, and Emodi showed complete indifference to promptly fielding it.
Givin ran hard and rounded first, Rogalla yelling at Emodi to get the ball, yet by the time Emodi picked it up Givin was already on second.
I’ll tell ya, folks, the air went out of the building. It was a minor mistake, especially with 1 out, yet it felt like the world collapsed. Rogalla was in a rhythm and he was dealing, yet that one small mistake sort of sunk him.
Two pitches later, Conor Grammes was rounding the bases after depositing a long dong into the left field bleachers.
This was just the start. A walk, a wild pitch, and another walk later and Xavier was rolling with a full head of steam. Will LaRue then stepped to the dish and smacked a double deep into right field, the ball bounding off the bullpen fence, scoring one.
Rogalla was pulled for Ryan Tapani, who gave up a double to Mitch Gallagher on just his fifth pitch. Two more scored.
It was 6-2, the Jays reeling, the Musketeers finding their momentum.
Creighton manged to get a run back in the 6th when - get this - Michael Emodi hung yet another dong into the left field bleachers, this one nearly bounding onto the concourse.
This was followed with a poke by Will Robertson to straight away center, a ball that dovetailed and dropped in front of a diving Matt Fallon. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, Fallon desperately chugging along to make a play while Robertson wheeled around the bases, yet as he approached third, Ed Servais threw up a stop sign.
The throw from the cut off man was way wide of the plate. Had Robertson taken off for home, he most likely would’ve made it. Instead, he was stranded at third. This run, as you may presume, may have made a huge difference.
Alas, Creighton got a run back, and somehow were crawling back into the game.
Xavier immediately got the run back in the top of the 7th when Nate Soria doubled to lead off the inning. After Soria was sacrificed to third, Chris Givin singled to put Soria home, getting the run back, and putting the Musketeers up a 4 spot.
In the bottom of the 7th things got... weird. Parker Upton led off for the Jays and put a charge into a ball into deep left, with Will LaRue seemingly settling under it. Instead, the ball bounded off the heel of his glove, giving Upton two bases.
Next, Riley Landuyt hit a liner into center, yet center fielder Matt Fallon fell on his keester when reading the ball off the bat, letting the ball fall in front of him, giving Upton third and Landuyt first.
Even weirder still, Bryce Only sent a chopper to Rylan Bannon at third and Upton went charging home. Bannon threw home and Upton threw on the brakes, turning back towards third and baiting catcher Nate Soria to throw... except Soria never did. Upton got back to third safely and thus, in the blink of an eye, the Bluejays had the bases loaded and no one out, the tying run at the plate.
Jason Allbery was up next, chopping a ball past the pitcher, getting Upton home, but getting thrown out at first, Landuyt and Only moving up 90’.
On the very first pitch Clark Brinkman saw, he shot it straight up the middle into center, scoring both Landuyt and Only, and putting the Jays down by just one run.
Ed Sevais then allowed Ryan Tapani to pitch to one batter in the top of the 8th, that batter being Rylan Bannon. Bannon popped out, Tapani was pulled for southpaw Hammer, and the LOOGY scenario worked, as Hammer faced two lefties - one got a single, the other struck out.
Servais then called on dynamite closer Dave Gerber to pitch to the next righty, using scenarios I never thought he’d use. It worked seamlessly, with Gerber getting a strikeout on three straight pitches.
When Trey Schramm came out to relieve Schilling it was immediately noticeable the contrast of their two styles. Schramm threw hard - really hard - and had deceptive offspeed stuff to compliment his low-90’s fastball. Creighton couldn’t quite figure him out in the eighth, jumping on early offerings and getting three consecutive ground outs.
Dave Gerber allowed a couple of baserunners in the top half of the 9th, but routinely dismissed their efforts and tossed a zero onto the board, setting the stage for a bottom of the ninth, tension filled, sweat-dripping-down-your-face end of a baseball game.
To lead things off, Riley Landuyt worked an 0-2 count into his favor, then deposited a single into shallow right center. Nick Ortega, the burner from Tampa, came in to pinch run for him, and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Bryce Only.
With a runner in scoring position, Allbery and Brinkman doled out back-to-back popouts, ending the threat, and sending the Musketeers home with a victory, a day off, and the chance to play for their second consecutive BIG EAST Championship.