A Creighton pitching staff that had not lost a game this season in which the Bluejays had led after six innings — which has happened on 12 occasions — finally coughed up a two-run lead in the seventh as Bradley erupted for four runs on five hits to take a two-run lead and looked to put the game away.
But Creighton was able to turn the tables on the Braves, scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning to nab a 5-4 win in front of 3,830 at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Bluejays’ rally was ignited by a crucial Bradley error and capped by a two-out RBI single by Federico Castagnini that gave Creighton the game’s final lead.
Freshman Tommy Strunc had another solid start for the Bluejays, allowing three hits and one run with five strikeouts in six innings but was unable to get his fifth win of the season when his normally solid bullpen suddenly looked shaky.
Creighton coach Ed Servais said he got what he wanted with Strunc going deep into the game, but that his bullpen may have been gassed.
“Our bullpen, we’ve used them a lot, and you could tell they weren’t quite as sharp tonight,” Servais said. “That’s the first big inning we’ve given up in a long, long time. For our guys to come back and score three in the bottom of the seventh tells you a little bit about what kind of club these guys want to be.”
The Bluejays (16-6, 3-1 Missouri Valley Conference) jumped on top 1-0 in the first inning on an RBI single by Mike Gerber and had a chance to extend the lead in the third.
Jake Peter led off that inning with a double to the right-field wall to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He advanced to third on a wild pitch with Gerber at the plate.
Gerber hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Derek Sprout, who fired home to cut down Peter.
Strunc’s night ended when he plunked the leadoff batter in the seventh inning. The Bluejay bullpen was unable to lock the game down as Bradley (11-14, 1-3) plated four runs to take the lead.
Nick Highberger, who entered the game with a 0.59 ERA, allowed back-to-back singles to Tyler Leffler and Dave Compitello to allow a run and cut the Creighton lead to 2-1.
Highberger gave way to Mark Winkelman, who surrendered three straight base hits that allowed three more Braves to cross the plate and give Bradley the 4-2 lead.
A Bradley error in the bottom of the inning allowed the Bluejays to knot the game 4-4. With runners at second and third and one out, Jordan Makovicka grounded a ball to Sprout at first base.
Sprout was unable to handle the ball, allowing both Bluejay runners to score.
Following a walk to Brad McKewon that put runners on first and second, Castagnini came through with a two-out single to right that scored Makovicka and gave the Bluejays a 5-4 lead.
Castagnini said the seventh-inning rally was indicative of how the team has been playing.
“We’ve been doing this the whole season really,” Castagnini said. “We just don’t stop believing. We know we can do it. We know we’re a good team.”
Reagan Fowler was 1 for 3 for the Bluejays and has reached base in all 22 games this season.
The weekend series with Bradley will resume at 2 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park.
Nick Musek (0-3) is scheduled to start for Creighton.