Reagan Fowler knew he had some big spikes to fill in taking over at first base for the Creighton baseball team.
Two of the past three players to hold down the position have won Gold Gloves. Darin Ruf won the national award for fielding excellence in 2007, while Nick Judkins claimed the prize last season.
“We’ve had some great first basemen here in the past,” Fowler said. “I knew I had to hold up my end of the bargain.”
Fowler is doing that, and more, midway through his first season as a starter. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Fowler has not committed an error in 248 fielding chances for the Bluejays (15-6).
Creighton coach Ed Servais figured the redshirt freshman from Millard South would be more than capable of holding his own defensively. It’s been Fowler’s offensive contributions that have exceeded Servais’ expectations.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be hitting close to .400 after the first 20-plus games,” Servais said. “I think even the most optimistic person might have said that would have been stretching it.”
Fowler will take a .387 average into Friday night’s Missouri Valley game against Bradley at TD Ameritrade Park. He ranks second on the team in hitting behind Jake Peter’s .416 average, and also is second in on-base percentage (.478).
Servais credits the work Fowler did during his redshirt season in helping him establish a solid foundation.
“He was very patient and came out every day and got himself ready even though he knew he wasn’t going to play,” Servais said. “He knew his opportunity would come this season.”
While Fowler sat out last season, he watched the Bluejays struggle to a 28-30 finish — though a late-season surge produced a Valley tournament championship and a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
“It was a difficult year with the losses, but the end of the year was a heck of a time,” Fowler said. “And, of course, I much rather would have been playing.
“But I just tried to come out every day and work hard and help other guys get better as well as get better myself.”
One of Fowler’s strengths this season has been his consistency. He has been held hitless in just three games. A left-handed hitter, he’s put together hitting streaks of four, five and nine games.
“I’m feeling real comfortable at the plate and my confidence right now is really high,” Fowler said. “I’ve always felt confident that I could contribute defensively, but coming into a different level of competition, I had a lot of question marks about my offense.
“I’m just trying to put good swings on the ball and have good at-bats. Things have worked out for me so far.”
Servais believes Fowler’s ability as a hitter will continue to improve as he matures and gets stronger. In high school, Fowler often drove the ball up the middle and to the opposite field.
Servais has seen Fowler’s ability to pull the ball improve as he’s gotten stronger.
“He’s tightened up his swing, and he’s able to turn on balls on the inner half now,” Servais said. “When we were recruiting Reagan, we thought he was a guy that had a lot of upside.
“We still do. We were fortunate to get him because I think he’s going to be a heck of a player before he’s done here.”
»NOTES: Creighton will start Tommy Strunc (4-0, 3.55 ERA) in Friday’s 6 p.m. opener against Bradley’s David Koll (1-3, 6.22 ERA). ... Servais said third baseman Federico Castagnini will be back in the lineup after missing the last four games because of a concussion. He also expects reliever Max Ising, who hasn’t pitched since March 10, to be available. Will Bamesberger, who like Ising has been sidelined because of arm soreness, will be held out again this week. Bamesberger has not pitched since March 14. ... Creighton is 2-1 in Valley play and is tied for second place with Wichita State. ... Inconsistent starting pitching has hampered the Braves (11-3, 1-2) as weekend starters Koll, Stephen Toma, John Nasshan and Eric Scheurmann have allowed 98 runs (75 earned) in 11623 innings. Overall, Bradley pitchers have a 6.22 ERA and have walked 107 hitters in 207 innings.
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