Baseball Hangs On For 9-8 Win Over Huskers Before 17,588

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Scott Thornburg
Courtesy: Eric Francis

OMAHA, Neb. -- Creighton built an early 9-0 lead and held off a valiant Nebraska rally, winning the third and final meeting of in-state rivals, 9-8, on Tuesday. The game was played before 17,588 fans at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and televised nationwide to an ESPNU audience.

Creighton (33-12, 10-5) scored four times in the top of the first inning against a pair of Husker pitchers. After Matt Freeman struck out Michael Mutcheson to start the game, Freeman allowed a single to Nick Judkins and hit Jimmy Swift and Trever Adams with pitches to load the bases. After falling behind 2-0 in the count to Alex Staehely, Freeman exited the game due to injury and was relieved by Jon Keller. Staehely fought off five straight foul balls before a single up the middle gave Creighton an early 2-0 lead. After a walk to Bemboom loaded the bases once again, Scott Thornburg continued to swing a hot bat with a single to center that scored Adams and Staehely, making it 4-0.

Creighton continued its early offensive onslaught in the second inning as well, scoring two more runs to go ahead 6-0. Mutcheson singled down the right-field line and scored on Jimmy Swift's third homer of the season, a blast to left-center.

Creighton piled on three more runs in the top of the third inning, building its lead to 9-0. Thornburg doubled to left-center to start the frame, and moved to third on a wild pitch from Dylan Vogt. Thornburg came home when Husker catcher Patric Tolentino air-mailed a throw to first following a strikeout in the dirt of Mike Gerber. Gerber raced home on a double by Chance Ross, and Ross would score after a double-play groundout by Judkins.

Nebraska cut into the lead in the third inning against CU reliever Brandon Koenigstein. Michael Pritchard doubled to start the third inning, advanced to third on a flyout from Bryan Peters and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cody Asche. NU also tacked on a tally in the fourth frame. Kale Kiser walked to open the fourth inning, moved to second on a groundout and came home on Chad Christensen's single.

The Huskers plated a single run in the fifth inning, an unearned tally against Mark Winkelman. A leadoff walk to Pritchard came back to bite the Jays, as he scored on Kale Kiser's double down the left-field line after a Winkelman error on a come backer. Winkleman then walked Kash Kalkowski to load the bases before Chase Webb came in to escape a bases-loaded jam by inducing a groundout from Christensen.

Webb ran into trouble in the sixth inning against the Husker offense. A leadoff walk to Cory Burleson preceded consecutive singles from Tanner Krietemeier and Michael Pritchard to fill the bases. Peters then turned on a full-count offering, ripping it down the third-base line to score two men and chase Webb from the game. Senior southpaw Jack VanLeur inherited the mess, and got a ground ball to short from Cody Asche. However, Swift's throw was dropped by first baseman Judkins, allowing NU's sixth run to score. The Huskers got within one run on a two-RBI bloop single from Kash Kalkowski before Reese McGraw came on in relief with one out and runners at the corners. McGraw got Christensen swinging before Gerber hauled down a deep drive from Burleson that would have handed NU the lead.

McGraw also shut down the Cornhuskers in the seventh and eighth innings, stopping NU's momentum cold on a day with record-high temperatures in Omaha.

McGraw gave way to Bluejay closer Kurt Spomer in the ninth inning. After a Burleson single led off the frame, Spomer struck out Krietemeier for the first out. Then, on a 3-2 pitch to Pritchard with pinch-runner Khiry Cooper on the move, Jimmy Swift scooped up Pritchard's grounder up the middle, stepped on second, and threw to first to complete the game-ending double-play. 

Creighton threw seven pitchers in the game, beginning the contest with two scoreless innings from sophomore ace Ty Blach. Blach yielded just one hit while walking two in his 41-pitch effort of predetermined work, to improve to 8-1 on the year. Freeman threw just 12 pitches but was credited the loss, falling to 5-6.

On offense, Creighton was led by two-hit nights from Mutcheson, Staehely and Thornburg, while Swift, Staehely and Thornburg each had multiple RBI.

Nebraska's offense was paced by two hits from Pritchard, Kiser, Christensen and Krietemeier, while Peters and Asche each had two RBI.

Creighton returns to MVC play this weekend with a road trip to Evansville, which starts Friday at 6 pm from Braun Stadium.

NOTES: Trever Adams has reached base safely in 29 straight games after his first-inning hit-by-pitch. Adams extended his hit streak to 10 with a ninth-inning single ... Creighton's four runs in the first inning were a season-high, and most since taking a 5-0 lead after one inning vs. New Orleans on May 21, 2010 ... Gametime temperature was 96 degrees, a TD Ameritrade Park Omaha record ... Nick Judkins laid down his nation-leading 19th sacrifice bunt in the second inning, his eighth in the past nine games ... Tuesday's attendance of 17,588 was the third-largest nationally in 2011, and larger than Major League Baseball crowds in Baltimore (11,485), Pittsburgh (13,497) and Atlanta (16,143). Creighton is now averaging 9,127 fans in nine home games at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

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