• Box Score: Creighton 8, San Diego 2
• Video Below: See Chance Ross and Brad McKewon talk after the game
• Photo Showcase: Regional Baseball
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LOS ANGELES — One thought kept reverberating through Creighton pitcher Shane Liska's brain as he prepared for Saturday's NCAA tournament game against San Diego.
“This could have been my last game,” Liska said. “None of our seniors want this to end, especially after the way we played yesterday. Everyone knew just how important today was and what was at stake.
“I didn't want this to be our last day.”
It won't be, as Liska helped pitch Creighton to an 8-2 elimination-game victory over the Toreros at the Los Angeles regional. The win, before 857 at Jackie Robinson Stadium, moved the Bluejays into a 5 p.m. game Sunday against New Mexico, which lost 7-1 to UCLA in Saturday's second game.
UCLA had put Creighton in a must-win situation with Friday night's 3-0 victory. Afterward, Creighton coach Ed Servais adamantly said he had no doubts about how his team would respond.
But even Servais was surprised by the way his players dominated a San Diego team that won 40 games this season. The Bluejays jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, tacked on a run in the second and three more in the fourth.
Anthony Bemboom's two-run single made it 8-1 by the time Liska handed things over to the bullpen to start the sixth.
“This (situation) was nothing compared to what this team went through in April,” said Servais, whose team lost 16 of 21 games at one point this season. “There was no doubt in my mind that we would play well today, but we played better than even I anticipated.
“It was a tremendous start and I think it took the wind out of San Diego. It was exactly what we needed.”
Creighton had three hits in the first inning, one more than it got on Friday. Chance Ross and Mike Gerber drove in runs with singles off losing pitcher Paul Sewald (8-4).
The Bluejays chased Sewald in the second by getting three more hits, including an RBI single by Nick Judkins. He finished 3 for 4, scored a run and drove in another.
“This team has been through a lot of adverse situations all year,” Judkins said. “Today was just another one, but we bounced back. That's the only way we know how to play. If you play hard, good things will happen, and that's what happened today.”
Creighton finished with 11 hits off four San Diego pitchers but also benefited from six walks, three hit batsmen and an error. The Bluejays put 22 men on base in the first five innings, and they sent nine to the plate in the fourth off hard-throwing reliever James Pazos.
“When we get opportunities, we want to capitalize on them,” said Bemboom, who had two hits and three RBIs. “Our ability to get two-out hits with guys in scoring position today was huge.
“We're going to have to continue that if we want to have a shot in this regional.”
The quick start not only gave Liska a lead to protect but provided him with a comfort zone. The right-hander held San Diego hitless before All-America third baseman Kris Bryant opened the fourth with a triple.
Liska got Connor Joe to ground out, scoring Bryant, and eased out of the inning without additional damage.
“In that situation, I was really aggressive with that batter (Joe),” Liska said. “I got him out and moved on from there.”
Liska limited San Diego, which came into the tournament hitting .310, to three hits and a run in five innings. Relievers Chase Webb and Mark Winkelman combined for three shutout innings before the Toreros scored their final run in the ninth on a two-out single off Kurt Spomer.
San Diego finished with seven hits, matching its total from Friday's 4-0 loss to New Mexico.
“Sometimes teams have slumps,” said Bryant, a sophomore who already is being touted as a first-round pick in 2013. “We just had ours at the wrong time.”
San Diego scored just two runs in its two regional losses and heads home with a 40-17 record.
“You never like it to end this way,” San Diego coach Rich Hill said, “but I'm proud of my guys.”
Creighton will take its 27-29 record into another elimination situation Sunday. The Bluejays avoided a quick exit, something that was vitally important to the team's seniors. Creighton is one of only two teams in the 64-team tournament with a losing record.
The Bluejays earned their bid by winning four games in the Missouri Valley tournament. The players know that some outsiders look at their late-season surge with skepticism.
“Not a lot of people thought we could win a game here or even thought we deserved the shot,” said Ross, who had two hits and two RBIs. “We thought we did. We played really well last week.
“Playing well in this game and coming out with a win is big for us. Our goal was not to go 0 and 2, and now we're pumped for that game tomorrow.”
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