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Reliever Paul Bergstrom pitches four scoreless innings as Creighton defeats St. John's
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Reliever Paul Bergstrom pitches four scoreless innings as Creighton defeats St. John's

Creighton reliever Paul Bergstrom knew before Sunday's series finale that his team might need him to pitch a little longer.

But the left-hander who hasn't allowed a run all year wasn't going to change his approach.

He would pound the strike zone, daring St. John's hitters to put the ball in play and test a defense that entered the weekend first nationally in fielding percentage.

Bergstrom's plan wasn't foolproof — the fifth pitch he threw blooped into left field and plated two inherited runners in the second — but he kept firing.

He ended up with four scoreless innings in relief, the longest outing of his career and the third time he's gone two-plus frames. That was the stabilizing force the Bluejays (17-9, 9-2) needed in their 11-4 win at TD Ameritrade Park.

"Honestly, no, nothing changed," said Bergstrom, who's now thrown 20⅔ scoreless innings in a team-high 12 appearances this season. "When I go in there, I'm just thinking one out at a time. It just happened to be 12 outs (Sunday)."

His effort ended up altering the momentum of Sunday's game — the fourth meeting in three days between the Big East rivals had the feel of a shootout on a warm afternoon early on.

The Red Storm (14-15, 5-10) put three men on base in the first inning and four more in the second to jump to a 3-1 lead. The Jays opened their half of the first with two walks and a run. They had two more runners reach in the second.

Then Bergstrom (1-0) locked in.

He pitched a perfect third. A Parker Upton outfield assist wiped away a runner trying to move from first to third in the fourth, helping Bergstrom escape trouble in that frame. He struck out two in the fifth and stranded two more runners.

"My success (this year) has come from not fearing contact, throwing with more conviction and trusting the guys behind me," Bergstrom said. "Just keep throwing strikes and having guys get themselves out."

The Jays' offense eventually took over.

Senior Ryan Mantle's two-run home run to right field put CU in front 4-3 in the third inning. Creighton broke it open in the fourth, scoring once on a wild pitch and adding four more on two-run singles by redshirt freshman Alan Roden and freshman Nolan Clifford.

"You could just tell (Mantle's homer) gave us a lot of energy," coach Ed Servais said. "We were hoping for something like this (Sunday)."

The game was called after eight innings because of St. John's travel schedule.

With the win, Creighton maintains a slim edge on Seton Hall (19-15, 12-3) for first place in the Big East. The Jays play at Butler next weekend.


Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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