LINCOLN — Creighton wasn’t going to let minor disruptions to its pregame routine spoil its chance at a season series win over its in-state rival.
A game-day drive down Interstate 80? No batting practice at the ballpark? The unwelcome drops of rain during warmups?
Even those kinds of subtle alterations are sometimes enough to derail a team’s psyche.
The Jays made sure it didn’t happen Tuesday, storming out to a 10-1 lead and holding on late for a 12-9 victory over Nebraska at Haymarket Park. It was CU’s first win in Lincoln since 2010, which was also the last time Creighton clinched a season series against NU. The Jays beat the Huskers 3-1 last month.
“It was just high energy, knowing that we had a chance to win a series,” senior catcher Blake Whitecotton said. “Obviously it’s always a fun atmosphere here at Nebraska. … We really just came out firing from the start. We had extreme focus before the game even started.”
And it showed early.
Junior Clark Brinkman ripped a double into the left-center field gap on the third pitch of the evening. CU was up 2-0 moments later.
Sophomore Will Robertson launched his 10th home run of the season in the third. Junior Thomas Luevano led off the fourth with a double and came around to score. The Jays (24-11) scored six times in the fifth — a surge that included a three-run double by Whitecotton, who said he expected to see a fastball and ended up rocketing that 2-0 pitch into right field to give Creighton a 10-1 lead.
“I was very pleased with how we started that game,” coach Ed Servais said. “We struck the ball hard.”
They just didn’t sustain it.
Creighton’s inability to capitalize in the seventh inning when it loaded the bases with no outs appeared to be a turning point. NU reliever Byron Hood wiggled his team out of that jam.
The Huskers (17-22) starting chipping away from there.
Junior Jesse Wilkening had already launched a three-run home run in the fifth inning. He was one of four Nebraska players who reached base with no outs in the seventh. NU scored three times in that inning.
Senior Scott Schreiber’s two-run home run in the eighth pulled his squad within 11-9. It was his 14th blast of the year.
But the offense came too late. Creighton tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, and closer Bobby Kametas retired NU’s three hitters in order to seal the Huskers’ fifth defeat in their last six games. They’ve faced early deficits in all of those loses.
“I’ve hugged them, I’ve yelled at them, I’ve done mental stuff,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “It’s crazy how we’ve got off to bad starts.”
He said the Huskers must regroup quickly. They’ll host Nevada from Thursday through Saturday before entering the stretch run of their season. They’re in 10th place in the Big Ten, two spots outside of the eight-team cutoff for the conference tournament.
Creighton, meanwhile, seems to be finding its groove again. The Jays have won four of five. And they’re set to play 11 of their final 15 games at home.
Even the threat of a late-game collapse Tuesday didn’t dampen their spirits. Whitecotton said he and his teammates showed toughness late as they held off NU’s rally.
“It was just a good team effort,” he said. “When things didn’t go well, we beared down and we leaned on each other for success.”
CU will open a three-game set with Georgetown on Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park. NU’s series against Nevada begins Thursday at Haymarket Park.
Jays play just fine without Michael Emodi
LINCOLN — For the first time in 92 games over two-plus seasons, Creighton played baseball without catcher Michael Emodi in the lineup.
The junior slugger was ejected in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game at Xavier. According to NCAA rules, an ejection results in a one-game suspension. So Emodi, who had last missed a game in 2016 as a freshman, missed the trip to Lincoln on Tuesday.
The Jays managed without him in a 12-9 victory over Nebraska before 4,431 fans at Haymarket Park.
And perhaps there will be a silver lining to Emodi’s day off. At least that’s coach Ed Servais’ hope. Emodi is hitting .209 in his last 13 games. He hasn’t homered since March 17.
“I think he’ll come back (Wednesday) with a big smile on his face and be very proud of his teammates,” Servais said. “Sometimes when the game’s taken away from you, there’s a tendency to look at the game differently. I’m glad we got this behind us. We need Mike. We look forward to having him back on Friday.”
Schreiber leads off for NU
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad tweaked his batting order Tuesday, but it’s unclear if those changes will be permanent.
Senior Scott Schreiber moved up to the leadoff spot for the first time this season. Junior Jesse Wilkening batted second. Senior Luis Alvarado, NU’s Friday starter, played in center field and hit seventh. Alvarado went 0 for 1 with a walk Tuesday in his first at-bats since March 13.
The challenge, according to Erstad, is keeping Alvarado fresh. The Huskers would like to have his bat in the lineup but they don’t want to overwork him.
Said Erstad: “I thought it would be a good time to get him out there (Tuesday). It’s just finding that balance of having him fresh on the mound and trying to utilize his bat.”
Jays players honored with awards
Creighton junior center fielder Clark Brinkman didn’t launch a home run Tuesday, but he still delivered a multi-hit performance for the third straight game.
Brinkman was named the NCAA.com national player of the week before Tuesday’s game in Lincoln. He hit four home runs during CU’s three-game series at Xavier last weekend. He recorded eight RBI for the week.
And Brinkman remained hot Tuesday, leading off the game with a double. He singled during the Jays’ six-run fifth inning.
Sophomore Will Robertson was named the Big East player of the week Tuesday. He hit his league-leading 10th home run of the season in the third inning. It marked his fourth homer in five games.
» Nebraska sophomore outfielder Ben Klenke made his first pitching appearance of his career in the eighth inning. He retired the first three hitters he faced, recording one strikeout.
» CU starter Preston Church surrendered four runs in six innings of work Tuesday. Three of them came on Jesse Wilkening’s fifth-inning home run. Church threw 6⅔ scoreless frames against NU last month.
» The Huskers’ two errors Tuesday increased their season total to 49. They had 51 total last year.
» Creighton hasn’t swept a season series from Nebraska since 1992. The two teams are set to play again on May 8 in Omaha.