• Box Score: Creighton 8, Nebraska 1
• Photo Showcase: NU-CU baseball, May 8
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Creighton, perhaps finding its stride again, handled a struggling opponent exactly the way a surging team should, jumping all over Nebraska from the start Tuesday and piling on late to avoid the season-series sweep.
The Bluejays (19-23) set a TD Ameritrade Park record and tied a season high with 16 hits, banging their way to an 8-1 win in front of 12,184, the second-largest college baseball crowd this season.
The Bluejays scored three times in the first inning — all with two outs — and looked confident and sharp from that point on, what could be an indication of a promising stretch run.
“We're feeling good. We're playing well as a team,” freshman second baseman Jake Peter said. “The momentum's going in our favor right now. And we're just going to try to keep it going and try to finish strong.”
Tuesday's unabated effort only fuels that mindset, even though the Bluejays are last in the Missouri Valley Conference standings at 5-12. But coach Ed Servais said Monday's practice was more energetic after timely hitting led to a series win at Bradley last weekend.
The Bluejays recorded eight two-out hits and went 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position against Nebraska (29-19) on Tuesday. They scored at least four runs for the third straight game, their longest streak since the season's first series.
They improved to 16-4 when putting up four or more runs. Offense like that could make Creighton a postseason threat, especially considering ace Ty Blach's effectiveness and the bullpen's depth, Servais said.
“No one's going to want to play us in conference, I can tell you that much,” said Servais, who won his 500th career game Tuesday.
The Huskers, meanwhile, appear to be headed in the opposite direction.
Nebraska's three-game losing streak is its longest since getting swept by Gonzaga to begin the season. The Huskers have lost six of 10, slumping at the wrong time as they sit in a tie for seventh in the Big Ten standings. Only the top six teams will earn bids to the league's postseason tournament.
The pressure might be getting to NU, coach Darin Erstad said.
“Guys are playing harder than they need to play,” Erstad said. “I appreciate that effort, but at the same time, we've got to take care of the baseball. … We need to really sharpen things up.”
It showed Tuesday.
Designated hitter Michael Pritchard was thrown out at second base in the first inning when first baseman Nick Judkins gunned down the NU sophomore after an errant throw from third. Junior Josh Scheffert got caught napping at first in the second, unable to return to the bag in time after a pitch bounced into catcher Anthony Bemboom's glove.
Senior left fielder Kale Kiser misread a line drive off the bat of designated hitter Scott Thornburg, Creighton's fifth straight two-out hit in a three-run first inning. Earlier in the frame, Bemboom put Creighton up 1-0 when his blooper dropped among three Huskers down the left-field line.
Despite those mistakes, Nebraska was right in the ballgame in the sixth when it loaded the bases with one out. But Creighton senior reliever Chase Webb struck out Scheffert looking and got junior Rich Sanguinetti to ground out, escaping the jam.
The Bluejays broke it open after that, getting two on Brad McKewon's soft liner into right field to make it 5-1. Peter hit a three-run double that bounced by a diving Sanguinetti in center field that extended CU's lead to 8-1.
It was exactly the kind of clutching hitting that was missing from Creighton's first two games against Nebraska, Peter said. The Huskers won the first game 5-3 before beating the Bluejays 4-1 two weeks ago. But these teams are in different places now.
“We didn't really have that one big moment, that key moment that got us over the hump against them,” Peter said. “But we found that (Tuesday).”
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