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13 February 2014

THE CREIGHTONIAN

PAGE 12 Pitching powers CU to top spot Follow us: @sports_cu

AUSTIN SMITH Sports Reporter The Creighton men’s baseball team will embark on its first season in the Big East this weekend after finishing in third place in its final season in the Missouri Valley Conference. With Big East preseason coaches’ poll Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in senior outfielder Mike Gerber and sophomore pitcher Tommy Strunc, respectively, the Jays are looking to make a good first impression. According to the same poll, the Jays are also the favorite to win the conference in their first year. “I think it’s good recognition for our program and it kind of shows that some of those teams have respect for us but now we just have to go out and prove it,” junior Jake Peter said. “We’re going to have a target on our backs and we’re going to have to prepare harder and execute even better but I think that’s something that we can do.” As the snow continues to fall in Omaha the Jays will open their season with 14 consecutive road games before playing 19 of their next 21 games at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha starting on March 14. After losing only two pitchers following the 2013 season, the Jays will rely on a strong and youthful staff to carry them in the new Big East. Strunc will try to build on a 2013 season that saw him finish 7-3 with a 4.14 ERA in 14 starts. In a game against Southern Illinois last season he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before giving up a single in the Jays’ 4-3 victory. Fellow sophomore pitchers Taylor Elman, Will Bamesberger, John Oltman, Austin Groth, Nick Highberger and Matt Warren will look to bolster the staff after pitching in a combined 132.2 innings last season. Both senior pitcher Bryan Sova and junior pitcher Max Ising transferred to Creighton

JORDAN ALLEN/THE CREIGHTONIAN

Sophomore Tommy Strunc was named Preseason Big East Pitcher of the Year and leads a deep and talented pitching staff that has Creighton pegged to win the conference. before the 2013 season and are looking to make an impact in their second year with the team. In 2012 Sova’s 17 saves at Scottsdale Community College were best in the nation for a junior college player. In his first year at Creighton he finished second on the team in ERA, posting a 2.34 while recording four saves. Ising, who

A gift from Lovetron I celebrated my birthday on Monday. Well “celebrated” is a strong word. I certainly acknowledged it. You see, my birthday has always kind of been MATT BOURGAULT overshadowed by Sports Columnist that other holiday. You know the one. Schoolchildren celebrate it by giving each other cards and candy (But everyone needs to get cards and candy! You take your lovebased capitalism to a private school, you little imperialist!), and I usually celebrate by listening to songs Irv Gotti produced in the early 2000s. I don’t sweat the limited birthday hype, though. I know that every year the people I love will get me the only present I ever need. Well, every year excluding 1998 and 1999, those were some rough winters. Of course, those loved ones are the National Basketball Association, and that present is the Sprite (for now) Slam Dunk Contest. From the lumbering simplicity of Artis Gilmore to the high-flying Terrance “Nobody remembers how many dunks I missed because the ones I put down in the final round were pretty sweet” Ross, dunk contests have never failed to make me smile. Slam dunk contest day has long been one of my favorite days of the year, right up there with fantasy sports draft day. I always get absorbed in the hype leading up to the contest. Will someone go betweenthe-legs twice? Will Tom Chambers prove he can fly? Is the NBA going to let the AND 1 guys join (sans The Professor, oh baby!)? Will Kenny tell me when it’s over? This year’s contest has plenty of excitement surrounding it. While I may appreciate every contestant’s efforts (yes, even Greg Minor), the public interest has been waning on the dunking exhibition for a few years now.

OUT OF BOUNDS

missed the majority of the 2013 season with an injury, performed well at Neosho County Community College, posting 6-0 record and 10 saves to go with a 2.00 ERA. Junior pitcher Mark Lukowski led the team in ERA in 2013, posting a 2.22 while going 4-2 in 25 relief appearances. Jake Peter divided

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his time between the infield and the pitching mound last season, posting a 3.07 ERA with six saves and a 2-1 record in 14 appearances. Peter also led the team in batting average, hitting .350 with 35 RBIs and 33 runs. Redshirt junior catcher Kevin Lamb was second on the team in batting average, hitting .331 with 25 RBIs and 16 runs. “We’ll miss some of the old rivalries that we had with Wichita State and Missouri State; those games were always intense and fun,” Lamb said. “But we’re looking forward to traveling to some new places, see some new teams, and I think we’re ready for the challenge.” Mike Gerber was third on the team, hitting .328 with 31 RBIs and 20 runs. He also had a team-leading six triples and five home runs. In the outfield he also posted an impressive zero errors on the season, sporting a perfect fielding percentage. Fellow senior outfielder Brad McKewon hit .308 on the year with 21 RBIs and 42 runs. His eight stolen bases also tied for the team lead on the year, tying with Peter. Sophomore infielders Ryan Fitzgerald and Reagan Fowler made solid impressions in their first season for the Jays last year. Fitzgerald hit .290 with nine RBIs and 10 runs. Fowler hit .282 while knocking in 20 runs and scoring 29 times himself. “I like our chances and I like our club,” head coach Ed Servais said. “We return a lot of players; nine of our top eleven pitchers return, and five of our top six offensive players return. We’re much further along than we were at this time last year and we’re excited to get started … I think we’re going to get everyone’s best shot, but ... we’re okay with that.” With a maturing pitching staff and lineup, the signs are optimistic for the Jays as they kick off the 2014 season. They will begin the season with a three-game series against Arkansas Little-Rock starting on Friday at 3 p.m. 68 A G C D 69 F B H J 70 A G C D 71 F B H J 72 A G C D 73 F B 74 A 75

C 53 F B H J 54 A G C D 55 F B H J H 56 A G C D D G C J 57 F B H J In order to win them back, the NBA has F B H 58 A G C D D 0 shaken up the format. This year features the A 4 G C 59 F B H J J 1 F 4 E highest concentration of that-season All-Stars B H 60 A G C D D 42 A G C D K that have ever competed in the dunk contest. 61 F B H J J C 3 F B J 4 E D 2 A G B H Paul George, John Wall and Damian Lillard 6 H D 4 D A 4 K A G 3 F B C C G 6 J C headline a cast that also includes Harrison 5 J F 1 F B 4 E B 5 4 H A 6 H Barnes, Ben McLemore (better write a letter) 46 A G C D 52 A G C D K E 65 J 3 47 F B H J J E and Terrence Ross. F 5 D B K H D 8 A G D 4 4 C D K A J 5 The dunkers will be split into two teams, C G E B 5 F B C J E 49 F B H J H 5 D K East and West (Where’s our pick-up game, H J D A H G 50 A G C 56 A G C D K 41 F B H J E NBA?), and each team will spend the first C J 7 51 F J F 5 D B K 42 A G C H H E round doing as many dunks as they can for 90 52 D 58 A G 43 F B H J E D K seconds. Judges will decide which side won, and G B C J 59 F C J 44 A G C D K H E 0 D B J 6 then that team can choose who goes first in the 5 H E F G 4 D B C J K A H G C battle round. B 46 A G C D K H D 31 F B H J E G 47 F B H J C The battle round will consist of each player A 32 A G C D K F E 8 A G B J 4 H 3 E dueling with a member of the opposite team. F 6 A G 3 D B 3 K 9 H F 4 C C 34 A G C D K J Losers are eliminated from the competition, 37 F B E B 50 H 35 F B H J E D 38 A G D K and the first team to record three victories A G C 36 A G C D K C J 39 F 21 F B H J E wins. Fans will vote (gross) for the “Dunker of J 7 B F 3 H B 40 D 22 A G C D K H A the Night.” G 38 A G C 23 F B H J E 29 F B H J Changes to the dunk contest are nothing 39 F 24 A G C D K 30 A G C D 0 4 J new. Well, these changes are new, but changes 5 E F 2 B 31 F B H J J K H aren’t new, you know what I mean? For years 26 A G C D K H 32 A G C D E D G 27 F B H J C the NBA has fiddled with gimmicks to revitalize 33 F B J K F 8 B 36 A 2 G 34 A the competition. Some of these (former winners J E 2 A G H D 2 9 3 F 2 C D 35 J K 3 being judges, the dunk wheel) have worked, F 2 B D 30 J H E D 4 A 2 C D while others (letting the fans vote, letting Chris H D G J C K B C 25 F B H J J H D Andersen take his sweet time, the dunk wheel) C J A B H G 26 A G C D H A have not. G 29 F B H J C 27 F 15 F B H J 30 A G C D As for this year’s gimmicks, I’m a fan. The 28 D 6 A G J 1 1 F 3 J B C elimination dynamic really intrigues me. It H 17 F B H J J H 32 A G C D D would be really fun to watch a contest-weary H G 18 A G C D C D 33 F B J F G 9 B C Damian Lillard fight back and eliminate every F 1 J H B 34 A F B 22 A G C D H 20 A D member of the East team. 35 A G 23 F B H J 21 D The way you can tell these changes are 9 F B C H J 4 A G 2 D 5 F B C J C good ones is that they transcend eras. Go 10 A G C D J 2 J H B 11 F B H H 26 A G D back to 1985. The teams would be ‘Nique, Dr. A G 12 A G C 27 F J, Terrence Stansbury and either Jordan or 15 F B H J 8 13 F 2 D 6 A 1 Orlando Woolridge versus Larry Nance, Dr. G 14 C 17 F B H J J Dunkenstein, The Glide and the other Bull for H 18 A G C D D fairness reasons. G C 19 F B J F B I would throw down pay-per-view money 20 A 8 A G H D for that. In fact, I’m going to spend the rest of 21 9 F B C J my night watching the 1985 contest (and all the 4 D 0 A G H D 1 147582-JBTP-5x8 Teacher C Ad.indd 1 2/6/14 3:39 PM C other ones) on YouTube. 11 F B H J J H 12 A G D Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! C 13 F J J

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Creightonian 2/13/14