The thought of not doing everything you can to win has little appeal to Creighton coach Ed Servais.
“Some guys might think about that,” Servais said, “but I’ve never been able to wrap my arms around that. That’s not how I’m built.”
Servais’ team on Thursday opens a crucial Missouri Valley series with Missouri State. The teams go into the final regular-season series tied for third place with 11-7 records. Both have an outside chance of claiming the No. 2 seed in the tournament but would need to sweep the series and have seventh-place Southern Illinois sweep second-place Illinois State.
A more likely scenario has the Bluejays and the Bears battling for the No. 3 seed. The spot would go to the winner of the series, with the series loser claiming the No. 4 seed.
With Evansville locked into the No. 5 seed, one might argue that finishing with the No. 4 seed is slightly more beneficial than claiming the higher seed. Indiana State has the inside track on the No. 6 seed, and the Sycamores likely would trot out projected first-round draft pick Sean Manaea in the opening game of the tournament.
Manaea heads into the final week of the regular season third in the league in ERA (1.58) and strikeouts (88).
Evansville does not play this week, and its ace is senior Kyle Lloyd. He’s second in the Valley in strikeouts (94) and tied for sixth in ERA (2.74). One of his seven wins this season came against Creighton.
Lloyd is good but most folks would rather take their chances against him rather than having to face the hard-throwing Manaea. Even Servais admits that.
“You’d probably give Sean Manaea a slight edge in his ability to pitch,” Servais said. “But I think you’re going to find everyone has a strong No. 1, a knockout guy at the front end.”