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Johnson leads Jays past Beavers

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Evan Johnson and the Creighton baseball team made sure there would be a new national champion crowned this year.

The Bluejays posted a 4-1 victory over Oregon State on Saturday, knocking the Beavers out of the NCAA Tournament.

Johnson spent two seasons pitching for Iowa Central following a standout career at Gilbert. He is the son of Fort Dodge natives Kurt and Jacy Johnson.

The senior, who has been a staple in the Creighton starting rotation this year, tossed five-plus innings with three strikeouts and just three hits allowed. He walked only one batter and allowed just a single extra-base hit.

“The most intense game I have ever pitched in,” Johnson said. “I think the team really enjoyed what we were doing. We knew what this game meant, especially for the seniors.”

Johnson was also on the mound in the Big East Tournament final vs. Xavier, recording a career-high nine strikeouts as the Bluejays won, 9-8.

On the season, Johnson has tossed 77 innings with 73 strikeouts and is 8-2 with a 3.04 earned run average.

“This year we really came together and decided we were going to sell out to make this a special year,” Johnson said. “Facing elimination put things into perspective for us leading up to this game. We hadn’t been in that position yet this postseason and I think we came together to continue on and do what we are capable of doing.”

One of Johnson’s three strikeouts came in the first inning when he retired Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman on three pitches. Rutschman, who was intentionally walked on Friday night with the bases loaded, is expected to be the No. 1 draft pick in the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft.

As a Triton, Johnson went 7-4 with 61 strikeouts in 60-plus innings. He was second team all-state for Gilbert as a senior and a four-year letterwinner.

Johnson appeared in 13 games last year as a junior for Creighton out of the bullpen, striking out eight batters.

Creighton (39-12 overall) will face either Cincinnati or Michigan on Sunday in another elimination game. The Bluejays, the No. 2 seed, lost to the Wolverines on Friday, 6-0.