Creighton’s best offense Thursday was North Dakota’s lack of defense.
Three North Dakota errors allowed the Bluejays to score all of their runs in a 4-1 victory that opened Creighton’s home schedule. The game was played at the CU Sports Complex because TD Ameritrade Park was not playable.
Each team collected only three hits, with none of the Bluejays’ figuring into their scoring in the sixth and seventh innings.
“We didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win it,” Creighton third baseman Federico Castagnini said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty, but you have to get the job done somehow.”
Castagnini figured into the game’s key play in the sixth inning. Trailing 1-0, Creighton (8-3) got its first two runners on when Kevin Lamb was hit by a pitch and Brad McKewon walked.
Castagnini followed with a bunt that North Dakota catcher Taylor Petersen fielded and threw down the left-field line. All three Creighton players scored on the play, with Castagnini showing excellent speed in circling the bases.
Is he as fast as he showed on the play?
“Absolutely,” Castagnini replied with a smile.
Creighton added a run in the seventh inning as another hit batsman, two errors on bunts committed by reliever Reid Jungling and a double-play grounder made it 4-1.
While the Bluejays’ offense struggled, seven pitchers sparkled in holding North Dakota to three singles while striking out eight. Freshmen Austin Groth started and pitched the first two innings, allowing North Dakota’s only run on a two-out hit by Patrick Vandoorne.
Matt Warren, Taylor Elman and Will Bamesberger followed with one-inning stints before Mark Lukowski pitched the sixth and the seventh to pick up the win. Bryan Sova pitched around a single in the eighth before Jake Peter picked up his first save with an 11-pitch ninth that included two strikeouts.
Lukowski already has pitched more in the season’s first 11 games than he did in making four appearances as a freshman in 2012. Thursday’s appearance was his sixth of the season, and his two scoreless innings dropped his ERA to 5.19 while the win left him 2-1.
“Every chance out there is another opportunity to show what you can do,” Lukowski said. “I look at it like I have to leave it out there all on the field, but pitching with a defense like this behind you takes away the pressure.”
Creighton is still trying to solidify roles for its staff, and Peter presents the coaches with some intriguing decisions. The sophomore is the Bluejays’ starting second baseman, but he has not allowed a hit in three innings.
“He was touching 94 (mph) out there today, and we have to find a way to use him and still allow him to play second base,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “He’s either going to be our Sunday guy or our closer, but we have to get innings out of him because he’s a difference-maker on the mound.”
While Servais was pleased with the work of his pitchers, he wasn’t quite as happy with the approach his team had for Thursday’s game. He held a long postgame talk with the players, and several times his voice could be heard rising about the music on the public address system.
The subject of the discussion, Servais said, was the lack of energy his team played with at the start of the game.
“That bothered me more than just getting three hits or whether we defended or pitched well enough to win that game,” he said. “There’s no reason you should play a Division I game with low energy, and we did today.”
Servais will be looking for improvement in that area Friday when his team opens a three-game series against Pacific. The opening game is set for 6 p.m. at TD Ameritrade.
North Dakota (7-7-1) ........................... 010 000 000—1 3 3
At Creighton (8-3) ........................... 000 003 10x—4 3 0
W: Lukowski, 2-1. L: Thome, 2-2. S: Peter, 1.
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