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Observations from the Nebraska-Creighton fall baseball scrimmage
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BASEBALL

Observations from the Nebraska-Creighton fall baseball scrimmage

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LINCOLN — Nebraska's Shay Schanaman looked at his catcher for the sign as a couple of Creighton base runners extended their leads and the Haymarket Park crowd raised the volume of its anticipatory slow clap.

Yes, Friday's scrimmage was technically an exhibition.

But there were sequences that featured game-like tension in a 12-inning affair that ultimately ended with the Huskers earning an 11-9 win.

One of those instances took place five batters into the in-state rivalry showdown: Schanaman used a strikeout to escape a top-of-the-first jam.

"This is exactly what we needed," CU coach Ed Servais said afterward. "There was pressure, there was intensity, there were people here (in the crowd). And you don't usually get that. This is the best fall situation anybody could ask for."

Ultimately, though, Creighton was the team that made the costly mistakes. Its three-error 10th inning resulted in four two-out runs for the Huskers, who flipped an 8-7 deficit into an 11-8 advantage.

NU still had to hold on from there because the plan going in was always to play 12 frames, including the bottom half of the 12th. By the time the action concluded Friday night — just over four hours total — the warm sunset had been replaced by the moon's hazy glow, the 1,358 fans had mostly filed out and the teams had combined to use 23 pitchers.

And there's lots to be gained from that experience, particularly for Nebraska's 18 newcomers (15 freshmen), according to assistant coach Lance Harvell. He was pleased with the way the Huskers approached the game.

"The biggest thing in practice every single day is our effort, our attitude, our energy," Harvell said. "We challenged the guys (Friday) to let that show up. ... The energy was high from the get-go, and our guys did a great job maintaining that throughout the entire night."

Here are 10 additional notes from the Nebraska-Creighton fall ball scrimmage:

» NU's starting outfield on Friday: junior Luke Sartori (center), freshman Luke Jessen (left) and junior Leighton Banjoff (right). Coach Will Bolt said earlier this fall that the competition there is "wide open."

» The best at-bat of the day arguably belonged to NU sophomore Jack Steil in the second inning. With two outs and runners on second and third, he faced an 0-2 count. But he took two balls and fouled off two other pitches before lining a two-run single into left. That hit put the Huskers ahead 3-0.

» Base running has been an area of emphasis for Creighton, which showed Friday. The Jays stole five bases. There was also a moment in the sixth where senior Jared Wegner tagged up from first on a fly ball hit to the right-field corner — Servais said he appreciated that heads-up play.

» CU used two new catchers behind the plate Friday, junior college transfer Ivan Witt and freshman Hogan Helligso (Elkhorn South). Neither has logged too many reps with this pitching staff. And they struggled at times — Creighton had six wild pitches and two passed balls.

But they'll grow from Friday, Servais said. The Jays have to replace last year's starting catcher, David Vilches (transferred out).

» Things didn't start well for freshman Drew Christo in the ninth inning. The right-hander from Elkhorn surrendered a solo home run to cut Nebraska's lead to 7-6. Then he loaded the bases with nobody out.

But he settled in just in time. He got the next batter to line out softly before striking out back-to-back CU hitters — the stadium radar gun clocked his fastball at 92-94 mph.

"That kid, he's so unflappable," Harvell said. "Nothing's gonna rattle him."

Harvell said Christo actually gave up a homer to Banjoff in his first collegiate intrasquad game earlier this fall. But Christo responded well then, too, Harvell said.

» Nebraska pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts on the night. Schanaman had five of them in his two innings of work.

» Creighton's Alan Roden hit a ball so hard that it cleared the right-field bullpen, soared over the ballpark's outer fence and landed in the parking lot. That two-run homer came in the seventh inning. Roden, who had an outfield/designated hitter role last year, is taking reps at first base this fall.

» The Jays saw another lefty slugger emerge Friday, too. Notre Dame transfer Kyle Hess launched two homers into the Haymarket Park right-field bullpen. He also singled and walked twice.

» Oddly enough, NU scored 11 runs but was credited with only five RBIs (because of Creighton's miscues). Of the Huskers' 11 hits, 10 were singles. But they left only five men on base (CU left 17).

» The last time Harvell said he had to temporarily take over head coaching duties for Bolt was a decade ago when the two coaches were at Texarkana College together. Bolt got tossed from a game the day before, Harvell said. Then the Harvell-led squad suffered a regional defeat.

On Friday, Bolt was out because of a positive COVID test. It was announced just ahead of the scrimmage's first pitch. The Huskers earned a win, and Harvell got some redemption.

"I was happy to kind of get off the schneid filling in for him," Harvell said with a laugh. "He can't hang that loss from 10 years ago over me anymore."


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