CLARKSVILLE - A battle between two of the nation's top 25 mid-major programs lived up to its billing as Austin Peay State University's baseball team eked out a 9-8 victory against Creighton, Saturday night, in the Riverview Inn Classic at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Austin Peay, which entered the game ranked No. 13 in the CollegeBaseballDaily.com Mid-Major poll, improved to 12-2 - its best 14-game start in program history. Creighton, which was ranked No. 13 in the same poll, fell to 5-3.
The game itself featured three ties, Austin Peay forging the last of those ties at 7-7 with shortstop Reed Harper's RBI single in the seventh. Creighton threatened to take the lead again in the eighth when leadoff hitter Kevin Lamb singled. However, reliever Ryan Quick struck out the next two batters and closer Tyler Rogers ended the inning with another strikeout.
The Govs took only their second lead of the contest in the eighth inning. Right fielder Rolando Gautier was hit by a 3-2 pitch to start the frame. Third baseman Kevin Corey put down a bunt to sacrifice the runner to second but also reached base when the Bluejays pitcher fumbled the ball. Austin Peay loaded the bases with second baseman Jordan Hankins single.
Creighton would stall the charge when it got a strikeout looking and seemed poised to put a dent in the threat when left fielder Cody Hudson hit a ground ball down the first-base line. The Bluejays first baseman initially charged the ball then paused to see if the ball would roll foul. However, it stayed fair and rolled into the outfield for a double, allowing two runs to score and giving APSU a 9-7 lead. Austin Peay would not scratch out another run as a fielder's choice cut down a runner between third and home and Creighton induced an inning-ending flyout.
But the excitement did not end there. Creighton took advantage of Rogers inability to find the strike zone consistently in its half of the ninth, with the first two batters earning walks. First baseman Reagan Fowler tapped the ball just inside fair territory and outside the batter's box which catcher P.J. Torres picked up to record the first out at third base.
Rogers then induced a sure-fire double play ground ball, but second baseman Jordan Hankins could not find the handle and Creighton had the bases loaded with one out. Designated hitter Jordan Makovicka followed with the third walk of the frame, forcing home a run. Rogers would find his form in time to end the threat with a strikeout and groundout, securing the Govs fourth straight win.
The late-inning fireworks were a fitting finale to a contest that got off to a rollicking start. Austin Peay grabbed the game's first lead courtesy Hankins' two-run home run in the first. Creighton responded with a five-run second inning that was kicked off by shortstop Alex Staehely's two-run game-tying home run. The Bluejays then took a 4-2 lead on left fielder Brad McKewon's two-run single and ended the frame leading 5-2.
Austin Peay closed the deficit to one run in its half of the second on Gautier's two-run double into the right field corner. But Creighton responded again when center fielder Mike Gerber led off the third with a home run, pushing the lead back to 6-4.
The Govs scratched back one of those runs in the third thanks to a Creighton wild pitch-error combination that allowed Hankins to score from second base. Austin Peay tied the game at 6-6 in the sixth when another Creighton wild pitch put Riner in scoring position and Gautier brought him home with a RBI single. The two teams exchanged runs in the seventh inning to set up the final stretch.
Rogers (3-0) picked up the win after allowing one unearned run and three walks over the final 1.1 innings. Starter Casey Delgado went just two-plus innings allowing six runs on seven hits. The Govs bullpen performed yeoman's work from there. Kacy Kemmer followed and allowed one run over 4.1 innings before Ryan Quick posted 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three.
Hudson finished the night 3-for-5 with two RBI with his two-run double again providing the game-winning margin - his third game-winning hit in the Govs last four games. All nine Governors batters recorded a hit in the 14-hit affair.
Creighton's Bryan Sova - the third of four relief pitchers - was tagged for the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) in 0.2 innings. Bluejays starter Nick Musec allowed six runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings.
Staehely led the Creighton offense with a 2-for-2, two RBI, two walk outing. Creighton posted 10 hits in the contest.
Austin Peay concludes the Riverview Inn Classic with a 2:30 p.m. contest against UALR. Creighton will wrap up its stay in Clarksville with an 11 a.m. contest against Milwaukee.