Baseball can’t hold on to lead, loses 8-6 in MVC championship

The Salukis jumped ahead early in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament against Creighton, but the lead didn’t hold and the Salukis were denied their first bid to the NCAA tournament in 22 years.

Creighton won the MVC baseball championship Saturday 8-6 against the Salukis in Springfield, Mo. SIU took a 4-0 lead by the middle of the third inning, but then watched the lead evaporate in the bottom of the seventh.

Senior outfielder Jordan Sivertsen hit a solo home run to lead off the top of the second inning to break the scoreless tie. The home run was No. 13 for Sivertsen, which ties him with junior first baseman Chris Serritella for most home runs in the Valley.

Sivertsen added another RBI on a two-out infield single in the top of the third to make the score 2-0. After two more infield hits, senior catcher Brian Bajer drove in two runs on a double to make it a four-run lead.

Creighton starting pitcher Ty Blach eventually got the final out in the inning, but he exited after the inning. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits.

SIU and Creighton traded single runs in the fourth inning, and after Bluejay reliever Chase Webb struck out the side in the top of the fifth, Creighton struck back in the bottom half of the inning. Forsythe was knocked out of the ballgame after a leadoff walk followed by a single.

Both runners scored on subsequent plays, and Forsythe was charged with four earned runs on seven hits. Creighton scored its first run of the inning when junior center-fielder Rennie Troggio lost sight of a fly ball off the bat of Bluejay catcher Anthony Bemboom, and the Bluejays scored the second run on a fielders-choice to make the score 5-4.

Senior catcher Brian Bajer led off the top of the sixth with a double, his second of the game. He advanced to third on a fly ball out, then scored on a single by freshman right fielder Tanner Renner to make the score 6-4.

The score remained 6-4 until the bottom of the seventh when Creighton scored four runs to take an 8-6 lead. After the Bluejays tied the game on a sac-fly and a one-out single, they took the lead when freshman second baseman Jake Peter hit a two-out, two-RBI single to make the score 8-6.

After a scoreless eighth inning, Bluejay senior Kurt Spomer retired the side in order in the top of the ninth to seal the victory for Creighton, who won last year’s MVC tournament.

Creighton was picked to finish second in the MVC preseason coaches’ poll, but they entered the tournament as the eighth and final seed after going 6-14 in Valley play this season. SIU, the No. 6 seed, and Creighton entered the championship game without a loss in the tournament.

Sophomore left-hander Tyler Dray took the loss after he gave up the eventual game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh. Creighton junior lefty Mark Winkleman recorded the victory after he pitched a perfect seventh inning.

With the victory, Creighton earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which starts Friday. NCAA regional pairings will be announced Monday.

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