Creighton heads into the May stretch run of the college baseball season convinced it is still moving in the right direction.
The Bluejays open their final Missouri Valley series at 12:07 p.m. Friday against Wichita State at Rosenblatt Stadium. Creighton plays 11 of its final 13 regular-season games at home.
“We think we have some things lined up that give us a reason for optimism,’’ Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “This team has dealt with more adversity than any team we’ve had since the ’05 season.
“They’ve kept plugging along. Sometimes teams reach this point in the season knowing that it’s just not going to happen for them. This team has continued to push forward, and we feel there are still a lot of reasons to play hard. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t.’’
Creighton (22-17) is 9-9 in the league heading into the three-game series against the Shockers (29-17, 10-5). The Bluejays, coming off a three-game conference sweep of Evansville, are fourth in the Valley. Five of the other seven league teams have lost at least six conference games, with each having at least two Valley series to play.
“Everybody has had their moments,’’ Servais said. “We’ve all had good weekends, and we’ve all had weekends when we haven’t played well. There is a lot of parity in the league this year.
“Right now, everyone is jockeying for the best possible seed at the conference tournament. If we could have a good weekend, we could finish as high as third, which would be a good accomplishment considering how we started the season.’’
Creighton opened league play at 3-6, including getting swept by Valley leader Illinois State in the third league series.
“We knew relatively early that we did not have a chance of winning the title,’’ Servais said. “Our goal since then was to get better every week. And we’re getting healthier. That’s probably the most encouraging thing.’’
Pitchers Greg Hellhake and Mike Nihsen are coming off strong outings after struggling much of the season with arm problems. Center fielder Robbie Knight continues to make progress in his comeback from a hamstring injury.
Knight has been limited to one at-bat since April 4 a key run-scoring double in an April 20 comeback win over Nebraska. He has resumed running on a limited basis and took batting practice Wednesday.
“I’m not ruling him out of playing this weekend, but we’re going to have to be smart about it,’’ Servais said. “If we can get him back, it would be a tremendous boost for our team.
“He has a chance to come back with a live bat at a time when a lot of other players are wearing down. It would be a boost to get a player of his caliber back.’’
Creighton also will face the Shockers at 12:07 p.m. Saturday at Rosenblatt. The teams conclude the series at 1 p.m. Sunday at the CU Sports Complex.
“Wichita probably is a little bit disappointed with their consistency, but they’re a very dangerous team,’’ Servais said. “They still believe they have a chance to win the regular-season championship.
“We know we’ll get their best effort.’’
NOTES: Creighton’s Jonas Dufek (7-1, 3.93 ERA) will pitch Friday’s opening game against Jordan Cooper (6-2, 1.96) ... Fans may purchase $1 beers, sodas and hot dogs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday. The promotion is part of Creighton’s “Business Day@Rosenblatt.’’ ... Wichita State stands first or second in the league in runs, RBIs, doubles, home runs, stolen bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. The Shockers are last in the Valley in fielding at .957.
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