Wild doesn't even begin to describe the game Nebraska playedTuesday night.
The Huskers pounded Creighton for five runs in the first inning and didn't stop there, accumulating a 9-1 edge heading into the bottom of the fifth. But NU pitchers proceeded to walk nine batters in the next two innings as Creighton scored seven runs and got back in the game.
But Nebraska scored a trio of runs over the final three innings and watched relievers Dylan Vogt and Josh Roeder shut the Bluejays down to earn a 12-9 victory and a season split with CU at TD Ameritrade Park.
But coach Darin Erstad couldn't let the walks go. Sure, there were plenty of positives to take from this game. But Nebraska matched a season-high with 11 walks, far too many for a coach who despises watching his players give up free passes.
"I'm just extremely disappointed," Erstad said. "We had seven walks between three four-year guys and a junior. I can see Colton Howell having some issues with being a young guy, but those other guys are experienced and the foundation of pitching is pounding the zone. To have that lead and not be able to throw strikes is disappointing."
The most puzzling part about NU's wild pitching was that it came with such a big lead. Nebraska's offense couldn't have started off much better, torching CU starter Matt Warren for seven runs in his 2.2 innings. The Huskers were swinging early in the count and making contact, carrying over their hot offense from a strong weekend against Minnesota's staff.
"That was our challenge today, to just be calm and ready to hit," first baseman Kash Kalkowski said. "We had to be ready to go in in the first inning and put pressure on them."
But then things got ugly. Freshman Colton Howell entered the game in the bottom of the fifth with a 9-1 lead but seemed overwhelmed by the moment. He issued four walks, two of which forced in runs, before being replaced by Ryan Hander. Hander gave up a double with the bases loaded but was bailed out when a runner was thrown out at home to end the inning.
Things didn't get better in the sixth. Hander's day ended after a walk and a two-run homer. Luke Bublitz came on and gave up a single and three walks, the last of which forced in a run. That was it for Erstad. It was time to turn to the big guns.
Vogt pitched out of the bases-loaded jam in the sixth and was terrific in both the seventh and eighth, giving up just one unearned run. Roeder came in and sent the Bluejays down in order in the ninth to improve NU to 24-26.
"Vogt was unbelievable last year and I have total confidence in him," Kalkowski said. "Having Roeder is a blessing to back him up if you need a strikeout or a clutch pitch. It's been really exciting having those two."
Even though it was a victory, this game doesn't figure to give Nebraska a dose of momentum heading into its final regular season series of the year, a three-game home bout with Michigan that begins Thursday. Those games will determine NU's Big Ten Tournament seeding, but Erstad isn't worried about the stress they will put on his players. He just wants to see results better than those of Tuesday night.
"We put more pressure on ourselves than anybody could put on us," Erstad said. "It's that quest for playing consistent baseball at a high level. Win or lose, you can't really control that stuff. But you can control how you go about your business. That's what we need to focus on right now."
***Tanner Lubach: The catcher is really starting to heat up. After a strong weekend against the Golden Gophers, Lubach was four for five against Creighton with four RBIs and a run scored.
***Austin Darby: Also battling his way out of a prolonged slump, the sophomore had three hits, batted in two and scored three runs.
***Dylan Vogt: If not for Vogt, the game still might be going. The senior came in and stopped the bleeding in the sixth, battling through 2.1 innings. He did give up a leadoff triple in the bottom of the eight, but that man only came in to score because of an error. Other than that hit, he was close to perfect.
Around the horn
***Pritchard extended his on-base streak to 33 games in the first inning when he reached on an error. That streak passes Sanguinetti's which just ended this weekend at 32 games.
***Brandon Pierce made just his second appearance since April 16, striking out two and walking one batter in the third inning.
***Nebraska improved to 3-3 in games played on Tuesdays this year.