OMAHA — Creighton lost its leading RBI producer and center fielder to an emergency appendectomy, but the Bluejays still found plenty of ways to score in a 5-3 victory against Nebraska on Friday night before 8,395 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
Bluejay center fielder Mike Gerber was in the hospital at game time, but his replacement, Michael Blatchford, picked up two hits. First, it was a run-scoring single in the fourth inning to give the Bluejays a 3-1 lead. Then he singled in the seventh and scored on a wild pitch and a tag-evading slide at home to pad the lead.
"Everybody steps up on this team, and Michael did a great job," said Bluejay closer Jake Peter, who set the Huskers down in order in the ninth. "To beat Nebraska is big. A Friday night game with a big crowd and a win over Nebraska, that's huge."
Nebraska (19-21) rallied in the seventh when the first four batters reached safely. Rich Sanguinetti singled with the bases loaded to drive in one run. The Bluejays got Pat Kelly to ground into a run-scoring double play, then Creighton reliever Mark Winkelman coaxed Michael Pritchard to fly out to left — ending Pritchard's 20-game hitting streak.
"We get bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, get two runs, but we did not string anything together," Husker coach Darin Erstad said. "We get first and third with one out in the first, and first and second in the fourth, and missed the opportunity. Then, we get a guy on second with no outs in the eighth.
"And we've been ridiculous about hitting with runners in scoring position in the Big Ten, but not here."
The Huskers had been rolling along at better than 10 runs a game in its last four contests.
Saturday in the TD Ameritrade Classic, Nebraska faces former Big 12 rival Oklahoma State in a doubleheader at 11 a.m. On Sunday, NU faces future Big Ten foe Rutgers at 1 p.m.
"I don't care who we play, where we play, if we play in a parking lot, I want to play games, period," Erstad said when asked about facing Oklahoma State ace Jason Hursh, who was held out of OSU's 4-1 victory Friday against Rutgers to be available to face the Huskers.
Nebraska, which has the worst record of the four teams in the tournament but the best RPI rating by virtue of a challenging schedule, will start Aaron Bummer and Tyler Niederklein on Saturday.
Husker shortstop Bryan Peters, who doubled and scored in the third inning and walked to load the bases in the seventh, said Nebraska will have to change its attitude for the rest of this weekend's games.
"Creighton executed better than we did," he said. "They wanted it more. You can see that, because execution is all about attitude. We didn't get the big hit when we needed to. They did."
Chad Christensen led off the Husker eighth with a single, reaching second on the play on a throwing error. But Winkelman got the next three batters out in order to end the threat.
The Bluejays tacked on another run in the ninth with four singles. The Huskers stopped that rally when Kelly scooped up a grounder to ignite a double play with the bases loaded.
Husker starter Christian DeLeon, who had won four of his last five starts, took the loss.
"He was a little sluggish at the start, but he pitched well enough to give us a chance to win," Erstad said.
CREIGHTON 5, NEBRASKA 3
|McKewon cf||5||1||1||0||Sanguinetti cf||5||0||2||1|
|Castagnini 3b||5||1||3||1||Kelly 2b||4||0||1||0|
|Peter 2b||5||1||2||1||Pritchard dh||2||0||0||1|
|Staehely ss||4||0||2||1||Christensen lf||4||0||2||0|
|Fowler 1b||5||1||2||1||Darby rf||4||0||0||0|
|Lamb c||3||0||0||0||Kalkowski 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Murphy rf||4||0||0||0||Headley 3b||2||1||0||0|
|Blatchford lf||4||1||2||1||Fish c||3||1||1||0|
|Makovicka dh||4||0||2||0||Scheffert ph||1||0||0||0|
|Clouthier 2b||0||0||0||0||Peters ss||3||1||1||0|
E--Staehely (7). DP--Creighton 1, Nebraska 2. LOB--Creighton 9, Nebraska 7. 2B--Staehely (8), Fowler (5), Makovicka (3); Kalkowski (10), Peters (4). SH--Lamb (8); Pritchard (8). SB--Kelly (4). CS--Kalkowski (3).
|Strunc, W (6-1)||6.0||5||2||2||3||5|
|DeLeon, L (5-3)||6.1||10||4||4||0||3|
WP--Strunc (5); Bublitz (2). T--2:46. A--8,395.