Creighton continued moving forward because the Bluejays refused to let a bump in the road turn into a mountain.
Stung by getting swept at Indiana State, Creighton bounced back with four straight wins. The latest came Sunday when Mike Gerber, Jordan Makovicka and Federico Castagnini each had two RBIs in a 9-1 victory over Southern Illinois.
The sweep of the Salukis kept Creighton (22-9, 8-4) a game behind Wichita State and Missouri State, tied for the Missouri Valley lead at 9-3.
“We knew we needed to play well and get the sweep to stay in this thing,” Creighton second baseman Jake Peter said. “We got a big win on Friday and just kept it going.”
The smiling faces in the Creighton dugout were in sharp contrast to a week ago, when the Bluejays left Terre Haute, Ind., having dropped all three games of the series to the Sycamores.
Creighton lost the first game of that series 6-1, then were beaten 5-4 on a controversial double-play call that wiped out the potential tying run on the game’s last play. Indiana State completed the sweep with a 5-3 win in the final game.
“They were really down last week,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “We knew the importance of that weekend, that we have to win some road games if we want to challenge in this league.
“We lost a heartbreaker on Saturday and we weren’t able to pick ourselves up on Sunday. But by Tuesday, you could see the guys had snapped out of it and they had a great game against Kansas.”
Creighton opened the week with a 12-4 win over the Jayhawks, who had won their previous two Big 12 series against Oklahoma State and Texas.
“That win gave us a little bit of a jump-start coming into this series,” Creighton center field Mike Gerber said. “I think it really helped our confidence.”
The Bluejays opened the series against the Salukis with a 4-3 win Friday in a game in which freshman Tommy Strunc took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. Creighton pulled out another tight one on Saturday in a 5-3 victory, then used a four-run first inning to take control on Sunday.
Peter led the Bluejays’ 12-hit attack with two triples and a single. He scored three runs.
Gerber followed Peter’s first-inning triple with one of his own and singled after Peter tripled in the fifth. Makovicka drew a bases-loaded walk in the first and had an RBI double in the fourth. Castagnini wrapped up the scoring with a two-run single in the seventh.
Creighton also got a solid effort on the mound from freshman Nick Highberger, who took over when starter Austin Groth lost command of the strike zone in the fourth. Highberger pitched a career-high 313 scoreless innings to pick up his first career victory.
“What Nick did was huge,” Servais said. “He struggled last weekend but he really ate up those middle innings today.”
Overall, Servais called his team’s play in the series against the Salukis (18-21, 2-10) its best of the season. The sweep was particularly satisfying for the players and coaches given where the team was when it started the week.
“It just seemed like whatever we did last weekend, it didn’t work out for us,” Gerber said. “In baseball, that happens sometimes.
“Coach told us when we got back here that we just had to keep playing aggressively. We did that, and we were able to get some wins out of it.”
NOTES: Peter became the first Creighton player since John Nowaczyk in 2006 to hit two triples in a game. … Highberger entered the game with the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. He got a fly ball and a grounder to get out of the jam. … Gerber’s triple was his sixth of the season. The school record is 11 by Dax Jones in 1991. … Gerber also made a highlight-reel, diving catch in center field in the ninth. … The Bluejays are scheduled to play at Iowa on Tuesday.
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