One night after playing maybe its best game of the season, Creighton turned in a performance that bordered on its worst.
What saved Saturday's game against Rutgers from being a lost cause was the Bluejays somehow found a way to win.
Down to its last strike in the ninth inning, Creighton tied the game when Brad McKewon scored from second base on Jake Peter's infield single. The Bluejays then used Reagan Fowler's RBI single in the 11th to finish off a 3-2 win at the TD Ameritrade Classic.
“There are going to be games like this, and winning games like this separates good teams from mediocre teams,” Peter said. “We grinded out those last few innings, and a win like this is huge.
“It gives us a taste of what playoff baseball might be like. These games are intense.”
Creighton, coming off a 14-hit night in Friday's 5-3 win over Nebraska, got just six hits off four Rutgers pitchers. The Bluejays failed to get several sacrifice bunts down, had two runners get caught in rundowns and had two more get thrown out trying to steal.
Throughout all that, Creighton (24-9) found a way to pull out its sixth straight victory.
“I'm not sure how we won that game,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said.
The Bluejays never led until Fowler ripped his game-winning hit down the first-base line to score McKewon, who had opened the 11th inning with a single. He moved to second on a sacrifice before losing pitcher Nathaniel Roe intentionally walked Peter.
Roe, who worked out of a similar jam in the 10th, got Alex Staehely to line to left field for the second out. Fowler then drove a 3-2 pitch from Roe past diving first baseman Charlie Law to produce the win.
“I was looking fastball and got one,” Fowler said. “If he was going to beat me with a curve he was going to beat me. I was relieved. Something good finally happened.”
A couple of foul balls had been the only contact Fowler had made in his first five at-bats. He struck out in the second, sixth and eighth innings and walked in the fourth and the 10th.
“It had been a rough, rough game,” Fowler said. “Three K's. I don't think I've ever done that before.”
Despite its struggles at the plate, Creighton had plenty of base runners as Rutgers pitchers walked 12 batters and hit two more. Two other Bluejays reached base on third-strike wild pitches.
Creighton, which stranded 13 runners, had scored its only run in the first eight innings when Rutgers reliever Howie Brey hit Michael Blatchford with a pitch with the bases loaded in the sixth.
That cut in half the 2-0 lead that Rutgers had taken in the fifth on RBI doubles by Matt Tietz and Nick Favatella. Brey and Jon Young protected the advantage until the ninth, when Kevin Lamb drew a one-out walk.
McKewon's bouncer back to the mound forced pinch-runner Tommy Clouthier at second, but Federico Castagnini kept the inning alive with another walk.
Young quickly put Peter in a 0-2 hole before the Creighton hitter took a ball. Peter bounced Young's next pitch up the middle, with Rutgers shortstop Pat Sweeney knocking the ball down behind second base.
“I thought the ball was through,” Peter said. “Then I saw that he had it.”
Creighton third-base coach Spencer Allen never hesitated in sending McKewon home on the play. Sweeney retrieved the ball after knocking it down, but his low throw got past Rutgers catcher Jeff Melillo as McKewon slid home to tie the game.
“Coach Allen knew it wasn't a good offensive night for us,” Servais said, “and when you sense that as a base coach, you have to be a little more aggressive.
“Their guy had the ball when Brad was one step around third base, but he trusted the kid wouldn't make an accurate throw. He didn't, and Coach Allen stole a run in the ninth.”
Servais' biggest hat tip of the night went to pitcher Bryan Sova, normally a late-innings reliever who pitched a career-high 3-2/3 innings.
“He's normally a guy that throws 15 to 22 pitches, and he threw 54 tonight,” Servais said. “You have to give him a lot of credit.”
Sova left after allowing Law's one-out double in the 11th. Peter, making back-to-back appearances for the first time this season, struck out the next two hitters to set up the final drama.
“This one gives us confidence,” Fowler said. “We were struggling, but we hung in there. It showed us that if we keep grinding, we have a shot to come out on top.”
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