OMAHA — It was ugly. As in 11 walks, eight different pitchers, nine runs allowed ugly. But a win over the in-state rival is still a win over the in-state rival. Beats the alternative.
Nebraska (24-26) scored 12 runs on 16 hits and the Huskers needed almost every one of them in the 12-9 win over Creighton Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Park. Starter Tyler Niederklein was credited with the win, pitching two innings, striking out two, and allowing just one earned run.
“Offensively I thought our guys were really hooked up and ready to go,” coach Darin Erstad said. “Some other guys weren’t quite ready to go and it showed. This game will expose you.”
Tuesday night’s game exposed a season-long bugaboo for the Huskers — consistent pitching. Nebraska’s 11 walks tied a season-high and nearly cost the Huskers the game.
Things looked good for Nebraska early as the Huskers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning on five hits including a key two-out, two-RBI single off the bat of catcher Tanner Lubach. He finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate, driving in four.
Creighton (28-15) got one run back in the bottom of the second inning, but the Huskers extended their lead with two runs in the third and again in the fifth to build a 9-1 lead.
That’s when things got a little dicey.
Huskers’ reliever Colton Howell struck out Creighton leadoff man Brad McKewon to start the inning but the wheels fell off from there. Howell gave up a single to third baseman Federico Catagnini and then walked four of the next five batters and gave way to Ryan Hander. With the bases loaded and two outs, Chad Christensen tried to make a sliding catch in left on Ryan Fitzgerald’s tailing liner but couldn’t come up with it. His relay throw caught Michael Blatchford at the plate trying to score from first to end the inning but not before the Bluejays plated four runs in the inning.
The sixth inning also started with Nebraska recording the first out before the Huskers again proved unable to find the plate. McKewon walked for the Bluejays followed by a home run to left by Castanini to make it 9-7, Nebraska. Luke Bublitz came in and walked three of the next five batters before Erstad was forced to turn to his closer, Dylan Vogt, to coax a fly out from Fitzgerald.
The final tally on two miserable innings for Nebraska? Seven runs on eight walks and only four hits.
“The foundation of pitching is just pounding the zone,” Erstad said. “To have that kind of lead and not be able to throw strikes is just very disappointing.”
Vogt settled the Huskers down, throwing 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit and, most importantly, walking none. Nebraska got two runs back in the seventh inning on a walk, double and a single. Creighton managed to scratch out one run in the eighth before Josh Roeder worked a one-two-three ninth to record his fourth save of the season.
Nebraska now turns its attention to a home series with Michigan and hopes of securing a top two seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament. The Huskers still have an outside shot at claiming the regular season conference title but they’ll need some help.
Michigan and Nebraska open their final series of the regular season on Thursday at 6:35 p.m. at Haymarket Park.