Nebraska had just cut Creighton’s lead in half, seemingly poised to seize momentum with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, but then sophomore Pat Kelly bounced into a double play.
It probably wasn’t Friday’s make-or-break moment. The Huskers had plenty of chances in their showdown with Creighton.
But the rally seemed to lose its sizzle after Kelly’s groundout left a runner on third and two outs. Many other NU scoring threats seemed to fade away in similar fashion — because of one subtle mistake or an overzealous swing or an unfortunate bounce.
The near-misses haunted Nebraska’s offense in a 5-3 loss to Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park, especially considering the fact that the Bluejays earned the win by serving line drives and hard-hit grounders into the gaps of the Huskers’ defense at critical points.
“Execution’s all about attitude. They got it done when it mattered,” NU senior shortstop Bryan Peters said. “We just couldn’t step up and get the big hit when we needed to, or move someone (over) when we needed to.”
Nebraska stranded seven runners, managing two hits in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Redshirt freshman catcher Taylor Fish couldn’t make contact with a pitch in the fourth inning, and Kash Kalkowski was thrown out trying to steal third base on the play. A run did score on Kelly’s double play in the seventh, making it 4-3, but he began that at-bat with no outs and the bases loaded. Senior Chad Christensen was on second with no outs in the eighth, but never moved.
NU coach Darin Erstad said there was a missed hit-and-run sign at one point, too.
“When you go up against a team that’s just not going to give you runs, you have to take advantage of those (chances),” he said. “We let a couple runs slip by.”
And Nebraska had been reliable in those situations of late.
The Huskers had scored 42 runs in their last four games, combining for 56 hits. Heading into the weekend, they led the Big Ten in team batting average at .348 during league play.
They were at their best in the third inning Friday, when Peters led off with a double and moved to third base on Rich Sanguinetti’s drag bunt down the first-base line. Kelly struck out, but Michael Pritchard got the run across on a safety squeeze bunt.
“We had a couple situations where we got a couple runs, but we didn’t really string a lot together and get a multiple scoring inning,” Erstad said.
Creighton, on the other hand, found a way to break through off Nebraska ace Christian DeLeon.
Alex Staehely made it 1-0 with an RBI double down the third-base line in the first inning. Senior left fielder Michael Blatchford’s two-out single scored Reagan Fowler and put the Bluejays up 3-1 in the fourth.
But DeLeon, who left in the seventh with two on, kept the Huskers in position to keep pace, Erstad said. They just couldn’t get the hits they needed.
“At the end of the day, that’s what killed us,” he said.
Nebraska will play a doubleheader against Oklahoma State (29-11) beginning at 11:05 a.m. Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park. The Cowboys won 4-1 against Rutgers (20-20) Friday afternoon in Omaha.
Contact the writer:
402-473-9585, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/JonNyatawa