Creighton’s baseball team came out swinging.
That might have been the most promising aspect of the Bluejays’ opening weekend of play. An offense that struggled to score last season put up 29 runs on 45 hits in a three-game sweep of Dallas Baptist.
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that we would hit like we did,” Creighton senior shortstop Alex Staehely said. “I’m not surprised that we were a little more productive than we were last season but I am surprised by the extent that we were.”
Creighton scored 26 runs in the first two games of the series before pulling out a 3-1 win in the final game to secure its first series sweep in a year. The Bluejays opened the 2012 season with a sweep but then spent a good portion of the rest of the season trying to keep from being swept.
A balky offense contributed to many of Creighton’s problems last season. The Bluejays hit .251 and scored 267 runs in a 28-30 season that they salvaged by winning the Missouri Valley tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament.
Creighton returned five position players from that club, and coach Ed Servais was encouraged by the improvement they had made during the offseason. Those veterans collected 23 of the Bluejays’ hits in the three games, with Staehely and second baseman Jake Peter each getting seven.
“I’ve been saying all along that our returning players are much improved offensively,” Servais said. “They were not pleased with how they swung the bats last year, and I think they’re on a mission to show how much development and growth they had made.”
Several newcomers also had productive series. Catcher Kevin Lamb hit .667 and drove in six runs, while first baseman Reagan Fowler hit .429 with four RBIs.
New hitting coach Spencer Allen cautioned about making too much of the opening weekend. Still, he knows the solid showing provides him with some credibility and the hitters with a dose of confidence.
“It was definitely encouraging,” Allen said. “I think it shows our guys that they can believe in what we’ve been working on. We’ve talked a lot about staying flat to the ball. It was good to see they’ve bought into it.”
The flat-to-the-ball approach will be important once the Bluejays start playing home games. Fly balls become easy outs at spacious TD Ameritrade Park.
“I’ve never been big on elevating the ball,” Servais said. “I’ve always preferred doubles and triples, and that was well before we got into TD. As a northern team, we’re going to play half our games in winds and cold.
“I was happy with our approach in the first week, and I know Spence was, too.”
Servais, Allen and Staehely all say that the work Creighton did in preparing for the season wasn’t radically different than what’s been done in the past.
“There were some tweaks here and there, and maybe we bought in that approach a little more,” Staehely said. “I think a lot of our success last week just came from guys being relaxed at the plate.”
Allen is utilizing some different hitting drills but the most important thing is that the players are hearing a lot of the same advice from a different voice.
“A lot of these guys have been hearing it over and over from me, and I think there’s something to be said for hearing it from a different coach,” Servais said. “The message might not be different but guys seem to be latching onto some of the things he’s saying.
“I think it was something we needed. In fact, it’s something that we’ve probably needed for a couple of years.”
Allen admits he’s been relentless in trying to get his points across.
“It’s kind of what Ed has done on the defensive end in that he doesn’t let them up for air,” Allen said. “He’s on them constantly about what we want to get done on defense. I’ve tried to take the same approach on the offensive side.
“I think guys are starting to understand who they are as hitters. It was good to come out and swing the bats as we did but it’s a long season. We certainly don’t have this thing figured out.”
But for an offense that averaged a run about every two innings last season, the showing against Dallas Baptist was a positive step.
“It definitely gave us a confidence boost,” Staehely said. “We know that we got some help from Dallas Baptist but the good thing was that we were able to take advantage of their mistakes.
“We can take that and use it in the future. We showed that we could come back when we got down. It’s probably not going to happen as often as it did against Dallas Baptist but it was encouraging to see.”
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