OMAHA — Creighton jumped on Nebraska early Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, plating two runs on three hits in the top of the first off the Huskers’ No. 1 starter, Christian DeLeon. It was the only lead the Bluejays needed as Nebraska squandered some late inning opportunities, losing 5-3 in both teams first game in the TD Ameritrade Classic.
Tommy Strunc (6-1) picked up the win for Creighton (23-9) and Jake Peter retired the Huskers in order in the ninth for his sixth save of the season. Federico Castagnini went 3-for-5 at the plate, one of six Bluejays to record multiple hits in the game, as the Jays pounded out 14 hits.
Nebraska (19-21) finally chased Strunc in the seventh with a leadoff walk from Blake Headley followed by a single from Taylor Fish. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Rich Sanguinetti slapped a 3-2 pitch back up the middle for an RBI single. The Huskers added another run when Pat Kelly grounded into a double play to make it 4-3.
Reliever Luke Bublitz struck out the side in the eighth and momentum seemed to have shifted when Chad Christensen lead off the bottom half with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Creighton shortstop Alex Staehely. But Nebraska was unable to advance Christensen farther than third. It was a familiar story for Nebraska on the night.
“We had a couple opportunities – bases loaded nobody out, first and third nobody out – and we just didn’t do what we were capable of doing from an execution standpoint,” coach Darin Erstad said. “We had some chances and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
After giving up a pair of runs early and another in the fourth, DeLeon settled in, coaxing a number of ground balls out of the Bluejays but most of them seemed to fall just out of reach of the Huskers infielders. DeLeon gave up 10 hits and four earned runs, striking out three over 6.1 innings. The loss dropped him to 5-3 on the season.
“It seemed like he was a little sluggish out of the gate and as the game went on – in the fifth, sixth and seventh – he was really sharp and had that tempo about him,” Erstad said. “He gave us a chance to win, found a way into the seventh, and we just didn’t have enough offensive power tonight.”
The loss was the Huskers second of the week, meaning hopes of an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament could be hanging in the balance when Nebraska takes on No. 24 Oklahoma State in a doubleheader on Saturday.
“For our at large bid in the tournament it’s pretty much do or die throughout the rest of the season,” shortstop Bryan Peters said. “We can’t have any letdowns so every game’s important from now on.”
First pitch for the first game of the doubleheader is at 11:05 a.m. on Saturday.