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Battle at the Ballpark Day 1 Recap


GAME 1:


In the opening contest of the inaugural Battle at the Ballpark, the Creighton Bluejays (6-0) offense continued to crank out runs in a 10-6 victory over the Air Force Falcons (4-5) at Constellation Field on Friday afternoon. It is the fourth time in their first six contests that the Bluejays have plated double-digit runs. 


Creighton jumped out to an early lead in the first when Teddy Deters doubled with one out off of LHP Seugmin Shim and Nolan Clifford drove him home with an RBI single, putting the Bluejays ahead 1-0. Shim used a double play from DH Jack Grace to get out of the inning, with Grace exiting the game after an apparent injury running down the first-base line. 


The Falcons threatened to tie the contest in the third thanks to a lead-off single from Chase Spencer. The centerfielder swiped second and third base and a walk to T.J. Oster placed men on the edges with two outs in the frame. Bluejays starter RHP Dominic Cancellieri responded by striking out Aerik Joe, Cancellieri’s fifth strikeout in the first two frames, holding the 1-0 Creighton edge.


Air Force broke through in the bottom of the third inning. Sam Kulasingman was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third base on a passed ball. Jay Thomason and Chris Stallings earned back-to-back walks, loading up the bases with no outs. Spencer brought in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to right, squaring the contest up at 1-1, but Cancellieri stranded the bases loaded with his sixth strikeout of the day. 


In the top of the fourth, Creighton posted their first crooked number of the tournament to reclaim the lead. Will MacLean singled and a throwing error by Shim put men on second and third with no outs. Nolan Sailors delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single, and a sacrifice bunt by Hogan Helligso followed by a single to left from Tate Gillen drove in an additional run to make it 4-1 Creighton. 


One massive swing brought Air Force back to even in the last of the fourth. Both Oster and Thomason walked before Stallings, a Houston native, uncorked a three-run homer to left, his second of the year, tying the score at 4-4. 


Air Force had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when they loaded up the bases on a hit batter, an infield single and a walk with two outs. RHP Malakai Vetock (W, 1-0) got a strikeout to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.


Creighton stormed into the lead in the top of the sixth inning behind a five-run outburst. Gillen doubled in a pair of runners, and after a Nolan Clifford double, Cuyler Zukowski, who had replaced Grace as the designated hitter, hit an opposite-field three-run homer, the first home run of his career, propelling the Bluejays to a 9-4 advantage.  


A sacrifice fly from Ben Neidnagel and an Oster RBI single pulled back a pair of runs for Air Force in the last of the sixth, but LHP Shane Curtin hurled 2.1 scoreless frames of relief to quell any further runs from the Falcons. Creighton added on additional run in the ninth and RHP Mason Koch retired the three batters he faced in order, wrapping up the game for Creighton. 


GAME 2:


In a pitcher’s duel into the eighth, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-0) topped the Army Black Knights (4-4) 4-0 in the nightcap of the first day of the Battle at the Ballpark in Sugar Land. 


After Louisiana Tech starter RHP Reed Smith faced one over the minimum in his first three frames, the Black Knights were able to string together base runners in the fourth. Chris Barr singled up the middle and Sam Ruta doubled to the right-field gap, placing runners at second and third with no outs. A walk to Braden Golinski loaded up the bases, but Smith struck out William Parker and got an game-changing double play when third baseman Logan McLeod tagged third for a force out and gunned home to cut down a runner, turning two and keeping the game scoreless. 


On the bump for Army, starter RHP Mike Ruggieri was brilliant, facing two over the minimum in seven shutout innings. The righty walked his lone batter of the night in the second inning and had a runner reach on a fielding error in the fourth. Ruggieri hit a batter in the sixth but canceled him out with an inning-ending double play. He returned for the seventh having not allowed a hit and surrendered his first hit of the night to Ethan Bates on a one-out single. Ruggieri concluded his night with ground ball double play, finishing up with six strikeouts and just one hit allowed. 


Louisiana Tech snapped the scoreless tie in the eighth. Michael Ballard and Will Safford each drew one-out walks and Kasten Furr plated two runs on a double and a fielding error, putting the Bulldogs up 2-0. Cole McConnell then launched a two-run homer to right, doubling the Louisiana Tech lead to 4-0. 


Army had the first two men reach on walks to start their half of the eighth, ending the night for RHP Sam Brodersen (W, 2-0). Bates (S, 2) shifted to the mound from his spot as the designated hitter and struck out the first two batters he faced but a walk to Thomas Schreck loaded the bases. Bates got a flyout to left from Addison Ainsworth, preserving the shutout for Louisiana Tech. The righty for the Bulldogs returned in the ninth and allowed a walk but struck out two more to close out the contest. 


The Battle at the Ballpark continues Saturday at Constellation Field. The action starts at 1:00 pm when undefeated Creighton faces undefeated Louisiana Tech, followed by a clash of service academies when Air Force takes on Army at 5:00 pm. All games can be viewed online at D1Baseball.com.


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