April 11, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
Doug McDermott and Creighton basketball sure left their mark on the BIG EAST in the Bluejays’ first season in the conference. Now Creighton’s baseball team is poised to make a mark of its own – and go one step further by winning a BIG EAST championship.
“We talked about there hasn’t been a BIG EAST conference champion in any of our other sports here at Creighton so we’re talking about being the first team to do that,” said Creighton junior second baseman Jake Peter. “Obviously all the other teams have had success but we want to take it to the next level and go and get the championship.”
And the road to that championship pursuit begins for the Bluejays Friday evening when they host Georgetown in what will be Creighton’s first taste of BIG EAST baseball.
“It was along spring season getting ready for the BIG EAST,” said senior reliever Bryan Sova, the BIG EAST’s saves leader so far this season with six. “We’ve had some ups and downs. But we’re ready to play and we’re really excited to be going to the BIG EAST.”
Creighton, which comes into this weekend’s three-game set with the Hoyas toting a 15-11-1 record, earned the top spot in the BIG EAST’s preseason poll and is led by a veteran lineup that includes senior Mike Gerber – the preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year – as well as senior Brad McKewon, Peter and Omaha native Reagan Fowler. The Bluejays say they are ready to mix things up in their new conference starting Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
“We definitely know we’re going to get every team’s best shot,” said Peter, who goes into the weekend batting .271 with two homers, 19 RBI and 19 runs scored. “We’ll have a target on our backs but that is just going to make us work harder and be just that much more prepared. And if we do that and play the way we’re supposed to then hopefully we’ll live up to those expectations.”
As you might expect there is little or no baseball history between Creighton and Georgetown as the two programs have played just three times prior to this weekend with all three games coming in the 1980s. That means no member of the Bluejays or Hoyas was even born the last time they played. It makes preparing for Georgetown a little tougher for Creighton.
“It’s tough,” Peter said. “I think we’re going to see that with a lot of teams in the BIG EAST. It’s hard to get a scouting report on them because we haven’t played them and they haven’t played us so I guess it goes both ways. But I know our coaches will have us prepared and we’ll be good to go this weekend.”
Because of the odd number of teams in the BIG EAST, Creighton was the odd team out of the conference’s opening weekend last week. While the other six programs got their conference feet wet, Creighton was biding its time waiting for its conference debut by sweeping a three-game series from North Dakota. But that week off might be a benefit to the Bluejays, according to both Peter and Sova.
“It was definitely tough sitting out last weekend,” Peter said. “But it was good to see some of those other teams playing. There were definitely some unexpected finishes, like Seton Hall had a little bit of a rough weekend. But I think it was good to see some of those teams shake out, give us a better idea of what teams are playing well at this time so I think it had some positives and negatives.”
“It kind of gives us a little bit of an edge to see where everyone else is at right now,” Sova said. “We can get a little scouting report on each of the teams.”
For those unfamiliar with Creighton’s style of play, think Oakland A’s or San Francisco Giants. It’s all about pitching and defense, coupled with some timely hitting.
“I would definitely say we’re a pitching/defense type of team,” Peter said. “That’s what we label ourselves as. We work on defense for an hour and a half every day in practice. We’re going to throw the ball over the plate and have the guys on defense make plays. On the offensive side we’re going to bunt, hit-and-run, run-and-hit, take the extra base, things like that. We’re just going to play hard every single game.”
Two road trips the Bluejays have circled on their schedule are their early May trip to St. John’s and a hoped-for trip to Coney Island at the end of May for the BIG EAST Tournament as most members of the team have never visited the Big Apple.
“That (St. John’s series) is definitely a trip we’re looking forward to because we’re out of school at that time so when we go there we won’t have class to worry about,” Peter said. “We can just play baseball and it will be a really good experience playing there in New York and playing St. John’s. We’re looking forward to it.”
Sova is looking to make his second-ever trip to New York a little more memorable than his first.
“I was in New York when I was 8-9,” Sova said. “My sister had a dance recital there and I got to go on that trip. But (the St. John’s series) is going to be a cool experience, going out there late in the year. We’re all looking forward to that trip but we’ve got to take this first series and get that under our belt first.”
And that series with Georgetown commences with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. Friday night.
“We’re really excited to get going here in the BIG EAST,” Peter said. “Obviously The (Missouri) Valley was a very good conference but we don’t expect anything less here in the BIG EAST. There are a lot of teams, top to bottom, that have been playing well and we’re definitely going to have to play very well to compete in it.”
And begin the chase for Creighton’s first BIG EAST title.
“We’d like to be the first ones to do it,” Sova said. “Everyone thought the basketball team was going to be the first ones because they caught fire and they beat Villanova twice. But now that they didn’t do it, it kind of gives us a chip on our shoulder to do it and be the first team to do it here at Creighton and bring a BIG EAST title home to the school.”