Creighton’s offensive struggles have shrunk the Bluejays’ margin for error to almost microscopic proportions.
That was evident once again Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Nebraska at TD Ameritrade Park. Creighton managed just three hits off eight Nebraska pitchers — four of whom carted ERAs of 5.87 or higher into the second meeting of the season between the two teams.
Still, the Bluejays were within 2-1 heading into the eighth when Pat Kelly opened the inning with an infield single on a grounder to first baseman Nick Judkins, who hesitated momentarily in getting the ball to pitcher Reese McGraw, covering first on the play.
“That’s a play we practice every day to a point where the players probably think we practice it too much,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “We just have to be so fine. Baseball is a game where you’re going to make mistakes.
“We’ve prided ourselves in not making a lot of them but when your offense is fighting it like ours is, every mistake is compounded.”
Kelly eventually scored on Rich Sanguinetti’s two-out single, which came after Michael Pritchard was hit by a pitch. Pritchard also scored on the play when Creighton’s Alex Staehely failed to catch the throw from the outfield. Suddenly, Nebraska’s one-run lead ballooned to three, which at this point borders on insurmountable for a Creighton team that came into the game hitting .238.
“Hitting a baseball is not the easiest thing in the world,” Creighton right fielder Anthony Bemboom said, “but we’re definitely better than this. We have to get back to work. We’ll get better.”
Whether Creighton can has to be a concern as the Bluejays head into the final weekend of April having lost 14 of their last 18 games. Four of the losses have come by one run, three by two runs and four by three runs.
Creighton has scored three runs or fewer in 12 of the 18 games and has scored five runs or more just five times.
“In midweek games, if we hold the opposition to four runs, we have to win those games,” Servais said. “Our goal is to score five runs every game, and our winning percentage is very, very high when we do that. Tonight, that would have been enough.”
Creighton scored its only run when Brad McKewon singled with two outs in the sixth and came home on Bemboom’s double. The Bluejays’ only other hit came in the second inning when Staehely singled with one out.
Mike Gerber followed with a walk before five Husker pitchers retired the next 13 Bluejays until McKewon singled. Starter Ryan Hander, pitching for the first time in three weeks, began the string of outs with a strikeout and a groundout to end the second.
Dexter Spitsnogle (5.87 ERA), Tyler King (6.75) and Tyler Niederklein (6.16) each pitched a perfect inning of relief. Jeff Stovall, whose 9.75 ERA is the highest on the Husker staff, stretched the string to 13 in a row before giving up the back-to-back, two-out hits to McKewon and Bemboom.
“Our team is in a slump,” McKeown said. “It’s not just one person that is struggling. We just need one guy to step up and maybe rally the team behind him.
“If we could have a big weekend, get a bunch of hits and score a bunch of runs, that could get us out of this. And we’ve had games where we’ve hit well but the next game, it hasn’t been there. If we could string some games together, it could get us going.”
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