Taking It For The Team

FAYETTEVILLE — Creighton center fielder Robbie Knight can't recall all 35 times he's been hit by a pitch this season.

He remembers getting hit in the chest on several occasions, and then there was that time when he took a pitch off his back. That one hurt a bit.

And of course, Knight can't forget about the fastball that he took off the left side of his face in a 4-2 win over Bradley on April 14. He still has two pink scars near the corner of his mouth from the 18 stitches he needed to stop the bleeding.

After that incident, Knight started wearing a special batting helmet that has an extra ear piece to provide more protection for his face.

"Somehow I've been hit by a lot of pitches this year," Knight said earlier this week.

His unfortunate luck has become a running joke among his teammates, and for good reason. The redshirt freshman has the distinction of being the player who has been hit by more pitches than anyone else in Division I this season.

In fact, Knight was beaned once in Saturday's 21-11 win over Albany to tie the national record, and the center fielder surpassed it Sunday when he took a pair of Nick Schmidt pitches off his body in a 6-0 loss to Arkansas in an elimination game.

With his 35 HBPs this season, Knight broke the NCAA record set by former Richmond third baseman Andrew Slater, who was hit by a pitch 33 times in 1997.

"I really don't care how I get on base, so I'll take a hit by a pitch every time," said Knight, who transferred to Creighton after one season at Kansas State. "It doesn't matter to me."

Knight understands that his role as Creighton's leadoff hitter is to get on base however he can. That's why he's not afraid to crowd tight to home plate and not get out of the way when a pitch comes too far inside.

Perhaps it's good that he's a pre-dental major.

"We've never told him, ‘Hey, go up there and sit on the plate and try to walk into a pitch or something like that,'" Creighton coach Ed Servais said. "But he understands, ‘Hey, if I can get on base, I've got a chance to score a run.'"

Knight was hit an average of .58 times per game this season. And of the 35 times that he was beaned, 11 of those came in his first at-bat of a game, including the one Sunday against Arkansas.

"It is pretty interesting that he's up in the 30s now (as far as getting hit by a pitch) because I don't think he got hit much when he was a high school player," Servais said. "So this new for him."

Knight said he doesn't take it personally when he gets hit by a pitch. He realizes it's not intentional, and he simply jogs to first base without glaring or saying anything derogatory to the opposing pitcher.

He didn't even get mad after what happened in an 8-2 loss at Oklahoma on March 7. In fact, he thought it was kind of funny.

After grounding out to the pitcher on his first at-bat, Knight proceeded to get hit on four straight plate appearances. Not four times over the two-game series, but four times in one game.

"That was kind of interesting. So after that, it was kind of a ‘Wow, I get hit a lot' kind of thing," Knight said. "Soon, I broke the school record (for hits by a pitch) and then everybody starting talking about the national one.

"It doesn't really mean much to me. I'm just trying to get on base."

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