Creighton's baseball team has reached the season-defining portion of its schedule.
The Bluejays have navigated the first 2½ months of the season well enough to cast themselves as a contender in the race for a conference title and a return to the postseason.
The next three-plus weeks, beginning with Tuesday night's home game against Kansas State, ultimately could determine a big part in how the 2013 team is remembered.
“We're right where we want to be,” Creighton second baseman Jake Peter said. “We have three teams that are tied with us coming up. If we keep playing like we have, anything can happen.”
Creighton is 8-4 in the Missouri Valley race and 24-10 overall. The Bluejays close conference play with series against the three teams ahead of them in the standings, starting with this weekend's trip to Illinois State (9-3, 27-16).
Creighton will then face Wichita State, tied with Missouri State for first with 11-4 conference records, in a three-game series May 10-12 in Wichita. The Bluejays will play their final Valley series ever May 16-18 when they host Missouri State.
Sprinkled in are nonconference home games against Kansas State, South Dakota State and Nebraska.
“These next 12 regular-season games should be a lot of fun,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said.
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Servais and his team knew coming into the season that the league schedule was backloaded in terms of degree of difficulty. That meant the Bluejays were aware they needed to take care of business on the front side and, with the exception of getting swept at Indiana State, they did just that.
Now, it's time to roll up the sleeves and really get to work.
“These are three big series coming up now,” Creighton third baseman Federico Castagnini said. “We've been talking about these series all season, and the main thing is doing the things that will make that last series (against) Missouri State count.”
Before Creighton can turn its attention to its trip to Illinois State, the Bluejays must contend with a Kansas State team that leads the nation in hitting (.333) and brings a 31-14 record into the 6:30 game at TD Ameritrade Park.
“They are as good of an offensive club as there is in the country,” Servais said. “That's a dangerous thing when you get into a midweek situation because we're going to have some young guys throwing.”
>> NOTES: Peter was named to the watch list of the Olerud Award, which honors college baseball's best two-way player. In addition to hitting a team-leading .381, the sophomore has posted a 1.54 ERA and six saves in 12 appearances as Creighton's closer. … Creighton freshman first baseman Reagan Fowler has reached base safely in all 30 games in which he has played this season. That's the longest active streak in the league and second-longest this season behind Wichita State's Casey Gillaspie's 36. … Creighton is 4-0 in midweek games.
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