Creighton coach Ed Servais knew early Wednesday that the Jays wouldn’t be playing any home games this weekend, but he and his staff decided not to immediately tell the players.
They had a game to win.
But right after CU defeated Kansas State 8-3 on a chilly Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park, Servais relayed the news to his team in its on-field, post-game huddle.
The Creighton-Butler series — the first of the Big East season — had been canceled. The threat of snow and cold was too great for the Bulldogs to even make the trip.
Servais indicated the reaction from his ballclub caught him by surprise a bit.
“I saw a disappointment in our players’ faces that I had not seen in a long time,” Servais said. “They were ready to play the conference (season).”
So Creighton’s staff went to work. And after a day’s worth of phone calls and last-minute travel planning, the Jays and Bulldogs had found a partial remedy for Mother Nature’s relentless wintery onslaught.
The Creighton-Butler series is back on. Well, sort of.
The Jays hopped on a bus Friday evening and traveled to Edwardsville, Illinois, where they will face Butler in a shortened series. The first game will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday. The second is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Creighton will lose two home games. And it will have to cover an unplanned set of expenses. And the weather won’t be great in Illinois, either — upper 30s with a chance of snow Sunday.
But CU has already had three contests canceled this season. Another one was postponed. And Servais said Friday that it was important for the Jays — particularly with an 18-game league schedule — to at least attempt to get these conference games in.
“It’s pretty hard to determine a conference champ with only 15 games,” Servais said.
The Bulldogs had to be pretty eager to play, too. Six of their games were canceled, including two this week.
Yet they’ve been playing the type of confidence-boosting baseball that’s put them into a strong position before the start of league play. Butler matched a school record with a 9-0 start to the season. It was up to 17-4 before getting swept at Indiana last weekend.
The Jays (17-6), the reigning Big East regular season title winner, should be ready for the challenge, though.
They arrived at their practice facility Friday afternoon as snow fluttered down from the gray sky. Their expectation was that they wouldn’t be playing again until Tuesday — but they attacked an hour’s worth of batting cage work as if they were minutes away from taking the field.
That was their mentality for Thursday’s workout, too, according to Servais.
He assumes the eagerness and enthusiasm will be high Saturday.
“This is a good group of guys,” Servais said. “They appreciate it.”
He worried about their attitude, though. Other teams haven’t always responded so positively to the winter blues.
But this year’s Creighton squad could be in store for something special.
The Jays, who haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 2012, entered Friday’s action ranked 14th in the RPI. They were projected by two separate outlets this week to earn an NCAA regional No. 2 seed (based on the results thus far).
They have to keep it up, though.
“We know we have to do well in conference to reach our goals,” sophomore Will Robertson said. “If we keep those goals in mind and finish out the season the way we want to — finish strong in conference — I think we’ll be where we want to be at the end.”
Probable starters: 3 p.m. Saturday: Sr. RHP Ryan Tapani (5-0, 1.43) vs. Jr. LHP Connor Mitchell (2-2, 3.55) 1 p.m. Sunday: Jr. LHP Denson Hull (0-0, 1.23) vs. Sr. RHP Garrett Christman (2-4, 3.06)