Creighton couldn’t keep its season alive to earn another shot at the Big East tournament’s top seed, falling 2-1 in an elimination game against Xavier on Saturday.
The Jays began the day by managing just three singles in a 2-0 loss to UConn — an intensity-filled showdown between the league’s top two teams, who did not play in the regular season.
But CU won’t get a rematch with the Huskies.
No. 2 seed Creighton took the field 90 minutes after its first loss Saturday for a do-or-die matchup with the Musketeers at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio — and it struggled again to get the offense going. The Jays jumped ahead 1-0 in the first, but they managed just three hits the rest of the way.
They did put two runners on base with one out in the ninth inning. But two strikeouts ended the game — and the season.
Xavier’s Ethan Bosacker was the primary culprit for CU’s woes in Game 2, striking out six over seven innings of work. The Musketeers (27-25) took the lead with a two-run third inning and held on from there.
The two defeats knocked Creighton out of the league tournament and out of contention for the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. The Jays (24-15) aren’t in the NCAA’s at-large conversation.
They’d opened the weekend confident in their chances of clinching a Big East tournament title. They won this event in 2019. They even entered Saturday with momentum after their four-run ninth inning Thursday secured an 8-7 win over Seton Hall in the opener.
But CU’s hitters weren’t able to break out of their funk.
They ended up with a .201 batting average over the season’s final 11 games, hitting zero home runs and averaging 3.1 runs per contest during that stretch.
Saturday’s game epitomized the issues. Creighton struck out 23 times during its two defeats. And it went a combined 4 of 27 with runners on base (.148).
Even if the Jays had found a way to advance past No. 4 seed Xavier on Saturday, it likely would have been a difficult task for CU to keep pace with hot-hitting Connecticut for two games Sunday to win a championship.
The Huskies (32-16) came into Saturday on an eight-game winning streak, scoring an average of 10.9 runs per contest during that stretch. They opened the Big East tournament by scoring in each of the first six innings during an 11-1 victory over the Musketeers on Thursday.
CU’s Jonah Smith was ready for the challenge, though.
The senior right-hander retired the first nine hitters of the first game Saturday, mixing speeds and changing location to keep the talented Connecticut lineup off balance.
The second and third times through the order weren’t as smooth — Big East player of the year Kyler Fedko hit a solo home run in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
But Smith kept the Jays in the game, scattering seven hits and striking out a career-high 11 batters over eight innings of work.
It was an impressive performance, although UConn’s Ben Casperius matched him. The right-hander struck out 13 batters over seven innings. Two Connecticut relievers pitched perfect eighth and ninth frames to close out the victory and drop CU into the losers bracket.
The Jays weren’t able to recover in time. Xavier, which won an elimination game Friday against Seton Hall, will now face UConn on Sunday with the tournament title on the line. The Musketeers have to win twice.