Creighton's inability to make more of the first eight innings Saturday left the Bluejays flirting with disaster in the ninth for the second straight game.
Bryan Sova left the bases loaded in recording his second save to finish off Creighton's 5-3 Missouri Valley win over Southern Illinois before 3,542 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Bluejays opened the series with Friday's 4-3 win over the Salukis. The squandering of scoring opportunities, Creighton coach Ed Servais said, was a common element in both wins.
“We're putting a lot of pressure on our pitchers,” Servais said. “We had opportunities to score more runs in the middle innings than we did. That's making that last inning touch and go.
“We left too many guys on base again today. I give Bryan Sova a lot of credit for coming into a tough situation and getting three outs. That was a good job by him.”
Creighton finished with 11 hits but stranded eight runners in picking up its third straight win to improve to 21-9 and 7-4 in the league. The Bluejays left runners in scoring position in four of the first eight innings.
“The thing is that we have been scoring a lot of runs, but we're leaving a lot of guys on, too,” said Kevin Lamb, the Bluejays' No. 1 catcher who was the designated hitter Saturday. “People talk about pitching, defense and timely hitting winning games.
“We were scoring a lot of runs early in the year and not leaving guys out there. It's part of the game, and it will come back around. We just have to be hot at the right time.”
Lamb, who got two hits to raise his average to .397, gave Creighton a 3-1 lead in the first when he followed a bases-loaded walk to Reagan Fowler with a two-run single. The Bluejays made it 4-1 in the second on Federico Castagnini's sacrifice fly.
After Southern Illinois (18-20, 2-9) scored an unearned run off winning pitcher Nick Musec to trim its deficit to 4-2 in the fifth, the Bluejays got a run back in the bottom half of the inning on Mike Gerber's single.
That inning, though, underscored Creighton's inability to make more of its chances. Castagnini, Jake Peter and Gerber opened the inning with singles to produce the run. After Alex Staehely popped out, Fowler was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Lamb ended the potential big inning by grounding into a double play.
The Salukis scored another unearned run in the seventh, then put their first two runners on in the ninth against reliever Mark Winkelman. Sova came on and got the first out on a sacrifice bunt. He retired Matt Jones on a fly ball to right fielder Brennan Murphy that wasn't deep enough to advance the runners.
Sova intentionally walked No. 4 hitter Austin Montgomery before ending the game by getting Ryan Casillas to fly to right on a 3-2 pitch.
Sova's ability to squeeze out of trouble bookended Musec's effort in the first. He gave up hits to three of the first four hitters to fall behind 1-0 and then walked Casillas to load the bases.
A strikeout and a groundout allowed Musec to extract himself from the tight spot.
“That was a pretty big confidence-booster going forward,” Musec said. “Any time you give up runs in the first inning, your mind starts racing. I just tried to slow the game down and tried to find a way to get out of that inning.”
Musec settled down after that, but ran into trouble when the Salukis put runners on first and third to open the fifth. Fidgeting in the dugout, Servais decided to stick with his senior right-hander.
“I was hoping not to go to our bullpen too soon and turn that thing upside down,” Servais said. “I was hoping to get another out or two out of Nick, and he came through.”
Musec scattered six hits and allowed one earned run in 513 innings in picking up his first win of the season after four losses.
“It took me long enough,” he said. “It's a confidence-booster moving forward.”
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