College baseball is a fickle thing. Each Division-1 program is allotted 11.7 scholarships that are usually spread across a handful of players, partial scholarships given here and there to fill out the entire roster. This leaves state schools like the University of Nebraska at a severe advantage against a private school like Creighton University, where tuition costs alone can cost as much as a brand new Acura RL.
It then becomes a game with a bit more of a political feel than other games, solely for that reason. There's a preconceived notion that the Bluejay ballplayers were born and bred with a 'silver spoon' and are spoiled players who had the means to play baseball year round. UNL carries the opposite; blue collar, corn-fed kids that were born and raised on the farm - good ol' boys.
The same holds true for college basketball but isn't as severe since both teams carry the same amount of scholarships - 13 - and are able to recruit and put forth the same resources towards the programs. Thus, Creighton is able to take a slight advantage in basketball in this 'proximity rivalry' but is left sort of shuffling their feet when it comes to baseball.
The game started as innocently as most games featuring Creighton with six straight outs. Austin Stroschein was awarded his first start of the year which left some Bluejay fans wondering when basketball season was starting. Nebraska tossed out Burkamper who has had his ups and downs throughout the year, reveling in a Friday night role before falling into a walk-a-thon and was delegated to mid-week games.
The second inning started things off offensively as Nebraska's Meyers shot a double down the third base line. Alvarado followed this up with a single up the middle and it was 1-0 Cornhuskers. Wilkening then grounded into an inning ending double play and all of a sudden the scoring threats and inning were over.
During the middle of the 2nd inning nothing of note happened.
Nebraska's Burkamper then went 1-2-3 and off to the third inning we went. The concourses teeming with red and blue, the mixing of fans creating a purple substance that lacked the tension of your usual rivalry game. Instead, folks were jovial and just happy to get outside on a beautiful night in the biggest city in the state. Baseball can bring people together. The third inning featured six straight outs.
Stroschein was able to set down the Huskers in order as the bottom of the fourth loomed for Burkamper. Daniel Woodrow played the role of superhero as he lifted a ball to deep right center field, bounding a ball off the wall which was then relayed quickly back into the field of play. Fortunately for Creighton, the speedy Woodrow landed at third base with a stand up triple. Ryan Fitzgerald then lifted a ball into deep right field which fell into the glove of Nebraska's Meyers, allowing Woodrow to dance majestically to home plate after tagging up from third. This was all Creighton's offense could muster, but hot damn the game was tied!
Well, it was tied for a while. My mind started to drift, thinking about that space camp I never went to. I started thinking about all those sweet replica rockets I could've pretended to be flying, all those girls that I wouldn't have talked to because I was too enamored with the rocket launch simulation, all the counselors telling me that I was too good at space stuff and that I'd be on the next mission to Mars.
And just like that the Huskers manufactured a run to regain the lead. Great. Stroschein walked two batters and was pulled, Connor Miller taking his place. With two outs the Husker's short stop Reveles singled up the middle to score Alvarado from second. Miller put the clamps down and struck down Boldt top end the top half of the fifth.
The singles train got roaring for the Jays in the bottom half of the sixth with Woodrow, Fitzgerald, and Lopez all singling, scoring two runs and taking a one run advantage. There was a bit of drama that came with Fitzgerald's knock as Woodrow was standing on second after a wild pitch but was held up from advancing home. This sort of conservative call is common place in Ed Servais's world, so no one was too overwhelmed. A slick double play by Nebraska's Schleppenbac and Reveles ended the inning, but the Jays had the 3-2 advantage.
It didn't last.
To start the top of the seventh, Meyers tripled for Nebraska. He was brought home on a sac fly to right by Alvarado, but it was all the Huskers could muster for the inning, leaving us tied into the bottom of the seventh inning.
There were times tonight where I had bouts of deja vu.
From then on it was high-pressure situations for both sides. In the top of the eighth Connor Miller managed to strike out Reveles, and was promptly replaced by John "the Holdman" Oltman (better nicknames pending) who allowed a single, then got Placzek to fly out and giant human Ben Miller to strike out.
The top of the order loomed large for Nebraska, but got through the no.9 hitter Michael Emodi and Danny Woodrow to strike out. Knutson then proceeded to walk Ryan Fitzgerald which set up a showdown with Nicky Lopez who grounded out to the left side. Tie ballgame, into the 9th.
David Gerber, Creighton's dynamite closer, was tasked with setting down the Huskers. First, he struck out Schrieber, then induced a groundball out. The crowd was stirring, so Gerber allowed a basehit to keep them on their toes, then promptly struck out Wilkening.
Reagan Fowler then began the bottom of the ninth with a double down the left field line. He was then moved up 90 feet by a Crawford dribbler. On the second pitch of Murray's at bat he belted one over the head of the second baseman. Jays win in dramatic, walkoff fashion.