OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska won its sixth straight game and took the season series against in-state foe Creighton with a 4-0 victory at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in front of 8,478 fans on Wednesday night.
It is the first shut-out win in the Nebraska-Creighton series since 2009.
Nebraska (30-16-1) had a chance to blow the game wide open in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded and no outs, but Creighton (22-19) got out of the jam without allowing any further damage to give itself one last chance.
Reliever Chad Luensmann stepped in to close out the game, struck out the first batter he faced then induced two ground-outs to end the game.
Nebraska only out-hit Creighton 10-7, but the Jays walked five to just one for the Huskers and Creighton hit into four double-plays, setting a new record for the Jays at TD Ameritrade Park.
“When you’re down the zone and you’re being able to pitch inside with some movement, you’re going to induce some of those ground balls,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “We’ve played strong defensively for most of the season and when we throw strikes and are down in the zone and playing defense … That’s how we’re built. That whole saying ‘pitch and play defense,’ it’s real, and we were able to do that today.”
Starting pitcher Ethan Frazier made short work of the Jays early on, facing the minimum amount of batters through three innings. He pitched into the fifth before giving way to reliever Robbie Palkert. Frazier finished his day allowing five hits with one strikeout and recorded the win, improving to 2-0.
“I thought it was awesome,” Erstad said. “It started with Frazier; he just pounded the zone. He’s had, what, two starts? And to pitch here in a beautiful stadium, kind of inexperienced, it could have been too much and he just came out, really good movement on his fastball, he was able to pitch inside to get some ground balls. I thought he did a fantastic job.”
Offensively, the Huskers struck first in the top of the third. Creighton starter Austin Stroschein walked Angelo Altavilla to lead things off then Scott Schreiber advanced Altavilla to third with a single. Ben Miller popped out to left field, but Luke Roskam reached first and Altavilla scored on a fielder’s choice on the next at-bat. Luis Alvarado grounded out to end the inning with Nebraska up 1-0.
Creighton gave Nebraska taste of its own medicine with a double play in the top of the fourth then put a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, but a Thomas Luevano fly-out ended the threat and the inning.
The Huskers added to their lead in the fifth. Jake Meyers got hit by a pitch to get on base then Altavilla sent him home with a single to right field. Later in the inning, a sacrifice fly by Luke Roskam pushed Altavilla home, making it 3-0 Nebraska.
In the bottom of the inning, Creighton advanced Jason Allbery to third, but Nebraska’s fourth double play erased the threat and ended the inning.
Luis Alvarado opened the eighth with a triple to right field and a couple of at-bats later Jake Schleppenbach sent him home on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-0 Nebraska. Creighton went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning, setting the stage for the eventful final frame.
After smacking Creighton 14-6 at Hawks Field on April 4, Nebraska followed it up with a lethargic 5-2 loss in Omaha on April 18.
“There was definitely a difference, I felt, today … I think it just started with the pitchers,” said first baseman Ben Miller, who went 3-for-4 at the plate. “They did a great job of pounding the zone. For midweek games, you never know who you’re going to get from the other team; it could be a whole staff or whatever. We’ve seen their guy a few times throughout the years.“
Both teams used five pitchers. The Huskers left 12 on base compared to just four for the Bluejays who left 14 on base in their win against Omaha on Tuesday.
Roskam finished without a hit in his three appearances at the plate but led the Huskers with two RBIs anyway. Altavilla contributed two runs and one RBI.
The Huskers will host Michigan State this weekend for a three-game series starting on Friday at 6:35 p.m.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.