Husker pitchers suffocate Creighton in rubber match win
OMAHA, Neb. - Sophomore right-hander Ethan Frazier threw 32 of his 50 pitches for strikes, the defense turned a season-high four double plays, and Nebraska manufactured some timely offense to take the season series over Creighton with a 4-0 win at TD Ameritrade Park Wednesday night.
The Huskers (30-16-1) picked up their 30th win of the season with their first shutout since a win over then-No. 5 Arizona in early March. It was Nebraska’s 10th win over Creighton (22-19) in the last 12 meetings between the in-state rivals.
The last time the two teams at the home of the College World Series, it was Creighton pitcher Austin Stroschein who stole the show. With the Bluejay senior on the mound again, it was the Husker pitchers who dominated the rematch.
“I thought it was awesome,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said of the pitching effort. “Started with Frazier, he just pounded the zone.
“To pitch here, in a beautiful stadium, kind of inexperienced, could’ve been too much, and he just came out and had really good movement on his fastball. He was able to pitch inside to get some ground balls, and I thought he did a fantastic job.”
While the Huskers left four runners on base in the first two innings, they were finally able to get Frazier some run support in the third. Angelo Altavilla and cleanup hitter Scott Schreiber reached base to start the inning and put runners at the corners with nobody out.
After a fly out, Luke Roskam grounded into a fielder’s choice at second base and beat out the relay throw to first to score Altavilla. The 1-0 score would hold until the fifth inning, when Altavilla singled in Jake Meyers and Roskam scored Altavilla again on another sacrifice, this one a fly out to right field to extend the lead to 3-0.
Nebraska would struggle to manufacture runs against the five Creighton pitchers, which appeared righty-lefty-righty-lefty-righty, in order. The Huskers also used five pitchers - Frazier and the top four relievers - which went flawlessly according to Erstad’s plan.
“That’s exactly how we lined it up,” Erstad said of using Robbie Palkert, Jake McSteen, Chad Luensmann, and Luis Alvarado out of the bullpen. “I don’t think it could’ve gone much smoother as far as pitch counts.
“We didn’t have to overstress anybody, so a good day of rest tomorrow and we should be set up for the weekend.”
The Huskers added another insurance run in the eighth when Jake Schleppenbach beat out another relay throw on a fielder’s choice RBI to extend the lead to 4-0. Ben Miller, who didn’t score on the evening, led the way for Nebraska with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate.
The Bluejays have now been held to one run or less in their last three losses after being forced into double plays to end three separate frames.
“The key to pitching is throwing strikes - they threw a lot of them tonight,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said of the Nebraska pitching staff. “When you give a team that’s playing well a bunch of free base opportunities, they’re going to score. We’re pretty fortunate that they only scored four runs, to be honest.”
With the win, the Huskers clinched the season series over Creighton for the fourth straight year, and more importantly improved their RPI by one spot to 41.
“This is what you work for,” Erstad said. “This is the reward for all the work you put in, that the games actually mean something. Now we’re ready to have some fun.”
The Big Ten-leading Huskers return to action at Haymarket Park for a weekend series against Michigan State. Friday’s first pitch from Jake Hohensee is set for 6:35 p.m.