The Creighton senior whose sixth-inning home run decided Tuesday’s rivalry game said a pregame conversation with his hitting coach helped him snap out of his recent funk.
The message Jack Strunc received was a rather simple one, too.
He just needed to relax.
So when the shortstop stepped to the plate in the sixth inning, he followed assistant Connor Gandossy’s advice. Strunc had managed just two singles in his previous 19 at-bats. He hadn’t hit a home run all year.
But he didn’t miss an elevated change-up Tuesday.
Strunc launched the first pitch he saw into the left-field bullpen, and the Jays held on for a 2-1 victory over the rival Huskers before 10,378 fans at TD Ameritrade Park. It’s the first time since 1992-93 that Creighton has won the season series against Nebraska in back-to-back years.
And Strunc’s blast proved to be the decisive blow Tuesday.
“I was just overthinking things,” Strunc said. “It’s late in the season, and I just want to leave everything out on the field and not overdo things, not think too much.”
It’s a challenge facing all of these Jays (23-8), really.
They missed the Big East tournament last year. This program hasn’t made a regional in seven seasons. The urgency’s rising, and this particular group of CU players has worked hard to put itself in position to set some new benchmarks.
But the finish line’s closing in — which means the pressure is beginning to mount.
At least on Tuesday, Creighton handled that just fine.
The first run of the game came on a two-strike, two-out hit from freshman Jared Wegner, who lined the seventh pitch of his fourth-inning at-bat into left field.
Six pitchers combined to hold Nebraska to four hits. Closer Bobby Kametas did create his own ninth-inning jam by walking two batters, but he relied on his slider to escape any trouble and preserve the win.
Coach Ed Servais said the Jays, who’ve won four straight, needed to prove they could persevere through moments like that.
“We’re going to play in a lot more of these games,” he said. “It was a typical Friday night conference game.”
And the mistakes were magnified, particularly for Nebraska (22-14).
A two-out walk and a hit batter led to CU’s first run. Strunc’s homer came on a pitch that unintentionally floated up in the zone. NU got its leadoff man on base in the fourth and ninth innings, but couldn’t advance him past second base.
Coach Darin Erstad said he liked his team’s approach at the plate early on — the Huskers squared up a few early pitches for loud outs. But they didn’t build on it.
Nebraska failed to record a hit in the game’s final three innings. NU has averaged just 3.5 runs and its hitters have combined for a .193 batting average over the past 10 contests.
“I thought we chased a little bit too much (Tuesday),” Erstad said. “It’s one of those times in the season where collectively we’re just not stringing hits together.”
NU will return home to face Illinois this weekend. Creighton travels to play Kansas on Wednesday — freshman Dylan Tebrake (0-1, 4.63) will start.