It wasn’t long after the Creighton Bluejays’ on-field celebration for winning the Big East regular-season championship that players and coaches began to refocus on the bigger picture.
They’ve got their eyes on other prizes ahead.
The Bluejays clinched the title by completing a three-game sweep of Villanova on Saturday with an 8-2 rout in front of a TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 1,698.
Creighton led 4-0 after the third inning and added four more runs in the seventh.
It is the third regular-season title in six seasons since the Bluejays joined the reconfigured Big East Conference.
The win gives Creighton (35-11 overall, 14-4 Big East) the No. 1 seed at the Big East tournament beginning Thursday in Mason, Ohio.
Creighton coach Ed Servais said his team is looking forward to the tournament after a stretch in which they won eight of their last nine conference games and clinched the title on the season’s final day.
“They’re anxious to move on to the next thing,” Servais said. “This has been hanging over their heads for about three weeks. They’re anxious to get on that plane and get to Cincinnati and see what we can do.”
The players received T-shirts at the conclusion of the game Saturday commemorating the regular-season title.
Right-fielder Will Robertson said he was going to wear his T-shirt the rest of the day.
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“It’s awesome. And actually I was telling Isaac (Collins) it smells like back when you were like kids winning the little tournaments and stuff that you’d make your mom and dad buy you a shirt if you won it. It smells like that, so it’s good,” he said.
Pitcher Evan Johnson had another stellar start Saturday. The senior allowed no runs on three hits and striking out seven through six innings while improving to 8-2.
Johnson has four quality starts in his five outings and lowered his ERA to 2.96.
Johnson said he embraced pitching on Senior Day.
“I didn’t really suppress it. I enjoyed it and kind of used it to my ... I channeled it, I guess, because it’s really exciting to pitch that way versus a different setting where you’re not pitching or you’re pitching a regular game,” he said.
“Today there was a lot of stuff behind it, so it was fun that way.”
Creighton had to sweep Villanova to claim the regular-season title. Servais said that task was more daunting than it looked on paper. The Wildcats entered the series in last place in the Big East with a 4-10 record.
“The expectations were really, really high for them this week. A lot of people looked at the records and said, ‘Hey. There’s no way Creighton’s going to lose to Villanova.’ But people who say that don’t know baseball,” Servais said.
“We warned our guys to not get caught up in the records, to play according to our ability and for the most part they did.”
A Big East tournament crown has eluded the Jays in all their four appearances there, including twice as the No. 1 seed. Servais said this team is better equipped for success at the tournament.
“I think our pitchers are peaking at the right time. They’re healthy. They haven’t logged a ton of innings. I think we have a rested bullpen,” Servais said.
“A lot of times at this time of year we’ve been tired. I think we’re in better shape on the mound, and I think we’re going to hit much better next weekend than we did this weekend.”
The Bluejays will play fourth-seeded Seton Hall on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The Jays swept the three-game road series with the Pirates in April, outscoring them 19-3.