NORMAL, Ill. — Creighton will be missed.
Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said it Wednesday after his team eliminated the Bluejays from the last event they'll participate in as a Missouri Valley member. Other coaches and league administrators told Creighton coach Ed Servais that during his stay at the conference tournament.
“Creighton has meant a lot to the Valley, and not just in basketball,” Servais said. “There are probably some people that are happy we're no longer in the league, but there are people that are sad, too.
“I appreciate everything the Valley did for me as a coach. I've been a part of it for 10 years. I think people have a lot of respect for the way we run our program, and to me, that's very important.”
Stephenson's team eliminated Creighton from the tournament with an 11-4 victory on Wednesday. The game marked Creighton's last in any sport as a Valley member as the school is moving to the new Big East next season.
“I'm very sad they're leaving,” Stephenson said. “Ever since Jim Hendry took over, it's been a very competitive situation. The coaches after him all did a good job and, for the most part, they've been up around the top of the league.
“We've had some great games against Creighton.”
Time off didn't derail Gerber's season
Missing a month of the season didn't slow down Mike Gerber.
The junior center fielder hadn't played since April 21 after undergoing an appendectomy before going 3 for 9 and driving in three runs in Creighton's losses to Indiana State and Wichita State. His hit in Wednesday's loss was a solo homer.
“You always like to put good swings on the ball,” Gerber said. “Obviously, you always want them to come in meaningful at-bats.”
Despite missing 15 games, Gerber led the Bluejays in triples (6) and homers (5) and finished second with 31 RBIs. He hit .328 in his 33 games.
As a draft-eligible junior, Gerber could find himself faced with a decision in the coming weeks about whether to return to school next season.
“Nothing is really set in stone right now,” Gerber said. “I'll have to wait and see what happens. I don't have my mind set one way or the other. We'll have to see how things play out.”
Gerber's younger brother, David, joins the program next fall. He admits having a chance to play with his brother could enter into his decision.
“He's really excited,” Gerber said. “He's met some of the guys on his visits. He's looking forward to it and it would be neat to be able to play on the same team.”
Gillaspie snaps home run slump
Casey Gillaspie's third-inning homer was the third for the Millard North graduate in the Shockers' last seven games. Gillaspie had not hit a homer since March 22 before he connected against Oklahoma State on May 14. He also hit a grand slam in the series against Northwestern to close the regular season.
“What are bears when they wake up from hibernation?” Stephenson said. “They're hungry. Maybe he's going to get hungry because he's been hibernating a long time.”
Gillaspie leads the Shockers with 10 homers, and a 9-for-26 (.346) surge in the past seven games has raised his batting average to .305.
Bits and pieces
>> Wednesday's game was delayed 2 hours and 42 minutes by rain. Both teams showed up at the field to get ready for the 9 a.m. start, went back to their hotels and then had to return.
>> Creighton sophomore Jake Peter is one of 46 players in contention for the first Gregg Olson Award, which will honor college baseball's “breakout player of the year.” Olson is the former Omaha Northwest star who became a two-time All-American at Auburn after having only an average freshman season with the Tigers.
>> Senior Jordan Makovicka had two hits in Creighton's two tournament games after coming back from a facial injury suffered when he was hit by a line drive in the dugout against Illinois State on May 4.
— Steven Pivovar