The impact Jack Rogalla had on Creighton’s program far exceeds the eight appearances he made as a Bluejay.
Creighton’s No. 1 starter at the beginning of the season, Rogalla battled back from a ligament tear in his right elbow to put himself in position to start Sunday’s Big East tournament championship against St. John’s.
He threw three innings, giving up five runs on four hits in the 8-7 loss. Just one of the hits was well struck, but Zach Lauricella’s bases-loaded triple put Rogalla and the Bluejays in a 3-0 hole in the third inning.
“Got a fastball up,” Rogalla said dejectedly. “Our plan was just to attack them, go out there as long as I could and keep the team in the game. I fell a little short of doing that.”
Rogalla pitched three seasons at Binghamton, finishing twice in the NCAA tournament. He came to Creighton this season as a graduate transfer, in part to have a chance to play with his younger brother, Keith.
Jack Rogalla broke down in the postgame press conference when asked what this season meant to him. He started to answer the question, then buried his head in his hands.
Teammate Ryan Fitzgerald patted Rogalla on the back, then told reporters: “Jack was our Friday guy until he went down with the UCL tear. When he first came back, I told him it was a pleasure playing behind him.
“It’s been one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve had. Things like that don’t happen in baseball, and he comes through and does that. I didn’t want any other guy on the mound starting that championship game. He’s our guy.”
Creighton coach Ed Servais said Rogalla built that kind of respect with all of his teammates, despite his short time in the program.
“The thing that drew his teammates to Jack is that he’s a real confident player,” Servais said.
Rogalla made two starts before the elbow injury. After two months of rehab, Rogalla got clearance to return to the mound in late April. He threw 4 2⁄3 innings through five outings before Sunday.
Though medically cleared to pitch, Servais put one restriction on Rogalla: No breaking pitches.
“We decided all he would throw is fastballs and change-ups,” Servais said. “It was important for him to get back out there. He’s going to be disappointed, but when he gets a chance to look back, he’s going to realize just what he did.
“He has as much respect from his teammates as anyone we’ve had, and he’s only been here for a short time. I’d like to get a few more guys like him.”
Ty makes most of his time
One of the players St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer brought to the postgame press conference was son Ty, a backup infielder whose only tournament appearance came when he pinch ran in the eighth inning.
Ty Blankmeyer stole second and eventually scored on Robert Wayman’s two-run, two-out double that provided the Red Storm with the eventual winning run.
“I wanted my son to experience this,” Ed Blankmeyer said. “He had a big stolen base. If he had been thrown out, I wouldn’t have had him up here.”
The Bluejays were convinced they did get him out. Television replays indicated Blankmeyer came off the base while being tagged by shortstop Nicky Lopez. If Blankmeyer had been called out, the inning would have been over.
Lopez and Fitzgerald, the second baseman, protested the call on the field. Asked about it afterward, Lopez said, “Whatever he (umpire Scott Bova) saw, we can’t do much about it.”
Said Fitzgerald: “It looked like he came off but it’s a close call. It was a tough decision, and he’s doing his best.”
Caruso named tourney MVP
St. John’s center fielder Alex Caruso was named the tournament’s most valuable player after hitting .600 and scoring seven runs in the Red Storm’s three games.
Caruso also drew four walks, reaching base 10 times in 14 plate appearances.
“Alex is the catalyst of our offense,” St. John’s right fielder Zach Lauricella said. “It starts with him, and he’s been doing it all year. He was excellent in the tournament.”
Pitcher Ryan McCormick and first baseman Matt Harris joined Caruso and Lauricella on the all-tournament team. Creighton also placed four players — Lopez, Fitzgerald, third baseman Harrison Crawford and designated hitter Matt Gandy — on the honor squad.
The other players selected were Seton Hall pitcher Anthony Elia and outfielder Zack Weigel and Georgetown catcher Nick Collins.
Event draws 10,844
The championship game drew 1,866, bringing the four-day attendance to 10,844.
No attendance figures were released for last year’s tournament in Brooklyn, New York, but it probably totaled less than 1,000.
A Big East official said the league is considering a couple of sites for next year’s tournament. TD Ameritrade Park is unavailable as the Big Ten tournament returns to the venue.
Servais praised Sunday’s turnout for helping his team overcome a 5-0 deficit.
“Our crowd was outstanding,” Servais said. “Things weren’t very positive for us during the middle part of the game, but our team found energy, through the crowd, to get back into the game.