LOS ANGELES — Creighton played all but one inning of Sunday's two NCAA tournament games without starting center fielder Mike Gerber.
The sophomore pulled his hamstring while running out a double in the first inning of the Bluejays' 7-2 win against New Mexico. He tried to stay in the game but had to come out after trying to go from second to third on a single.
“I really couldn't extend my leg,” Gerber said. “I kind of hobbled into third.”
Gerber tried to take batting practice in between the afternoon win and the championship game with UCLA. Creighton coach Ed Servais said he might try to use Gerber, who was the team leader in homers and had been tied for the team-high in RBIs, as a designated hitter.
But Gerber's leg wouldn't allow it, and he had to watch the 13-5 loss to the Bruins on the bench.
“You always want to play with the guys, especially at the end of the season,” Gerber said. “There wasn't much I could do about it, and that's disappointing.”
Gerber's injury forced Servais to move left fielder Brad McKewon to center. Jordan Makovicka played left after Gerber left the New Mexico game. Anthony Bemboom played left field against UCLA.
Bemboom, Judkins on all-tourney team
Bemboom and first baseman Nick Judkins were voted to the all-tournament team that, naturally, was dominated by UCLA players.
Outfielder Jeff Gelalich, who hit two home runs and drove in four runs Sunday night, was named the most valuable player. Other Bruins to make the honor squad were second baseman Trevor Brown, shortstop Pat Valaika, outfielders Cody Keefer and Beau Amaral and pitchers Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig.
D.J. Peterson of New Mexico was picked at third base, while San Diego's Kris Bryant was the designated hitter.
Homer provides relief for Jays pitcher
Bemboom's first-inning blast provided Creighton starter Erik Mattingly with some relief in Sunday's opening game.
Bemboom's three-run homer started the Bluejays on their way to a 7-2 victory that eliminated New Mexico. It came after Mattingly had walked a hitter and given up two long fly-ball outs in the Lobos' half of the first.
“I kind of had a shaky first inning,” Mattingly said. “None of my pitches were working but after Anthony hit that homer, it relaxes you as a pitcher. It made it easier to go back out there and throw strikes.”
Mattingly picked up his third win of the season by pitching into the seventh innings against New Mexico team that came into the tournament ranked fourth nationally with a .333 batting average.
“They have some really good hitters,” Mattingly said, “and I was fortunate that they hit some balls right at my fielders. They hit the ball hard but just right at somebody.”
Mattingly allowed only three hits and one earned run in his six innings. He walked three and struck out two in a 94-pitch performance.
“He threw well,” said left fielder Ben Woodchick, who got the first hit off Mattingly with a fourth-inning double. “We hit a lot balls hard, a lot of balls right at people. That's kind of way it's been these last two games.”
New Mexico managed just two hits in Saturday night's 7-1 loss to UCLA.
“Maybe we tried to do a little too much,” Woodchick said. “We were hot coming in but we tried to do a little too much with each at-bat.”
Creighton has answers in opener
New Mexico put up a run against Mattingly in the fourth but Creighton countered with two runs in its half of the inning. The Lobos cut the deficit to 5-2 with an unearned run in the fifth but the Bluejays answered with two more in their half of the inning.
“Every time we'd climb back up they kicked us right back down,” New Mexico coach Ray Birmingham said. “That affects you emotionally, especially after the grind of 60-some games.”
Chance Ross drove in the two runs in the fourth when he followed a two-out walk to Brad McKewon and a double by Nick Judkins with a single up the middle. The Bluejays also scored their two fifth-inning runs with two outs as Brennan Murphy hit a double.
“It's big when you give up a run and your offense comes back with two more,” Mattingly said. “It gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher to just throw your stuff and throw strikes.”
Lobos may have tried too hard
New Mexico came into the tournament having won nine straight games, then posted a 4-0 victory against San Diego in the first round.
Birmingham agreed with his players that they might have tried too hard in the back-to-back losses to UCLA and Creighton that brought to an end a 37-24 season.
“Creighton pitched extremely well and made pitches when they needed to make them,” Birmingham said. “I think the world of Ed Servais, who has done a great job at Creighton. He's one of the good guys in baseball.
“Creighton is not a bad ballclub. The one thing you can always count on from Creighton is fundamental baseball and great pitching. Ed always does a great job, especially late in the season.