Creighton packs plenty of frustration as it heads into the final three weekends of the regular season.
The high expectations the Bluejays carried into the season have been ground down by 22 losses in their first 38 games. They begin a Missouri Valley series at Bradley on Friday sitting at the bottom of the conference standings.
That’s the last place a team loaded with veterans from a 45-win 2011 club expected to be heading into May. The lack of success frustrates coach Ed Servais because he has seen this team play at high levels at times this season.
The latest example came last week, when Creighton scrapped and clawed its way to a 15-inning win over Illinois State.
“And it had nothing to do with us winning that game,’’ Servais said. “It was about how we battled that whole game and played with a lot of emotion. That’s the way we have to play every game, but we’re still searching for a way to get that point across to the players.’’
That is perhaps the thing that frustrates Servais the most.
“I think our biggest issue is that I have not been able to convince them of my vision of how this team has to play,’’ Servais said. “It’s not only about how we need to execute but how we need to play. We’ve been a low-energy team, and that’s bothersome to me.
“This is a good group of guys, but I think there are times when some of them don’t believe they can provide the kind of personality we need to be successful. But they can, and we’ve seen it at times. I just need to keep trying to get that message through to them, that we can have more success if we play the other way.’’
With the end of classes, Servais hopes the fact that the players will be spending more time around him — and each other — will lead to positive results as the team enters the stretch run of the season.
“This is the time of year that guys can really get locked into baseball,’’ he said. “I think our preparation for games can get better — that’s an area we haven’t done a good enough job.
“But more than anything, I’m hoping to see a little more bonding and chemistry. Guys will have a chance to see a little more of each other than they have had a chance to during the school year.’’
The Bradley series will mark the last time during the regular season that the Bluejays go on the road. They’ll return from Peoria to play their final nine regular-season games at TD Ameritrade Park.
Creighton will be shorthanded for the Bradley series as Michael Mutcheson, Gabriel Thibodeaux and Michael Blatchford won’t play. Mutcheson aggravated a back injury that forced him to miss more than half of this season, while Thibodeaux hasn’t been cleared after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Blatchford is still slowed by the knee injury he suffered in early March.
“We’re basically down to 10 or 11 players,’’ Servais said.
» NOTES: Bradley will start Omahan Joe Bircher (6-1, 2.34 ERA) in Friday’s 6 p.m. opener at O’Brien Field. The senior from Roncalli leads the Valley in strikeouts with 90 in 80.2 innings. Ty Blach (3-4, 3.11 ERA) will start for Creighton. … Bradley is in sixth place in the league with a 7-8 record and stands 24-17-1 overall. … Creighton is winless on the road in Valley play this season after getting swept at Missouri State and Southern Illinois. … First baseman Nick Judkins was named to the all-district academic team Thursday. Judkins, who leads the Bluejays in hitting with a .299 average, has a 3.51 grade-point average and is a business marketing major.
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