Nebraska versus Creighton

Oklahoma versus Nebraska. Alabama versus Auburn. USC versus Notre Dame. Nebraska versus Creighton. Nebraska vs. Creighton? Forget the fact that it's not even in the same sport as the aforementioned rivalries, but Creighton versus Nebraska?? They're not even in the same division, so how can this match-up mean anything more than a friendly in-state game? It does mean more. It means much more and as recent games between the NU and CU baseball teams have shown, but it's been anything but friendly.

Rivalries defy numerical comparisons. They don't follow the trends. Rivalries throw away records and rankings mean little to nothing. They are intense, they are fanatic in their fan following and one way or another, they seem to bring out the best and yes, even the worst in those teams competing. This year, NU and CU have matched up twice, each team taking one on their home field. In the record books, that's two games played with a split, but players don't look at the record books and statistics can't tell you what happened in those games, especially the most recent one at Haymarket park.

A pleasant evening, though windy throughout the game, the NU/CU game was shaping up not as a classic, but another to and fro match, where both had chances to win in the end. NU starting off a bit ugly, committing a few errors early, took charge with the bats in the last four innings to deadlock the game at five. What happened in the last two innings however showed us a microcosm of what this in-state game has become.

With the wind howling out and the rain coming down not in waves, but buckets, it was only a matter of time before they called the game. Riddle pinch-running for catcher, John Grose on second, Simokaitis at the plate, two strikes, one out and the weather almost monsoon-like. You could feel it in the air. The game was about to be called. If there was going to be a winner to this game, the time had to be now and NU answered in volumes. Simokaitis lined over short and Riddle came motoring around third towards home, where there was a play at the plate. He was safe. The replay proved it, but amidst the downpour, only those closest really knew.

What followed was mayhem, from the fans and players alike. NU players rejoiced on the field and fans did likewise from the overhang, still clamoring for protection from the elements. The players were oblivious though as glee overtook their need to worry about getting a little wet.

With the game decided, CU and NU still had one more confrontation to go that night and it was allegedly caused by an NU coach, though catcher, John Grose disagrees. "When the game was over, they (the Creighton players) said that coach A (Mike Anderson) purposely bumped into the pitcher and said something which was ridiculous."

From that moment on, the intensities rose, mouths starting talking back and forth and personally, I thought "it was on". Chest-bumping, hat-tossing, finger-pointing and a whole lot of jawing, it seemed inevitable amidst the still-blustery storm, NU and CU would wage another battle, but of a different kind. As Grose stated, "It kind of hit the fan after that and it was close. It almost turned into a brawl."

Where does this intense hatred for one another come from though? Were the CU players so incensed over the call or was this more a potential eruption from a more deep-seeded state of emotion? Grose stated that this wasn't the origin of the obvious animosity between the two clubs.

"In the first game, Hinrichs (2b, Chris Hinrichs) hit a ball and I don't know if you know what "pimping" a hit is, but he hit the ball, threw the bat up in the air and was pumping his fist and threw the bat in the dugout, when he came home, we had some words. So, the next game, Tyler Davies hit a home run and pimped it to, so I had some words for him to. The thing about Hinrichs is he didn't even hit a home run, so I really had some words for him, but I just told Tyler (when he came across) that the game wasn't over."

Not over indeed. NU rallied, the storm subsided, but tempers still stay on edge to this day. Creighton and Nebraska may not be a rivalry from the standpoint of being in the same division, playing for the same title or whatever common criteria you give it, but this has all the emotion of any of the best you have ever seen.

Not lost on Grose was what happened during the jaw-session between the two teams as he, Jeff Leise and Ryan Bonesio seemed intent on not letting CU get the best of NU even after the game was over. "It was me, Leise and Bonesio that were right there in the middle of it", Grose stated. "I get pretty fired up for things and after that, I am definitely there to support the team."

And not just because of what happened afterwards, but of the game itself, Grose also stated that he is just starting to realize just what this particular game means. "When I came in here, I have to admit that I didn't really understand the magnitude of it, but now, especially after this last one, I guarantee you that for the next three years, my team is going to be ready to play."

You could have probably not have written a better segue into the Rosenblatt game as has been written by these two teams. The fact that this series is an in-state one. The fact that it's currently tied. The fact that the last game almost ended up in a brawl and combine all that with the atmosphere of the home of the College World Series complimented with both schools' aces, Shane Komine for Nebraska and Tom Oldham for the Jays taking the mound, it's an epic in the making.

Possibly an epic or even an adventure, the game at Rosenblatt has already garnered magnificent attention. This game will be at least double the largest crowd that either has played in front of this year, an estimated 14,000 tickets having been sold for this "to do" at the Blatt. 14,000 tickets? For a meaningless game? For a game that won't hurt or help each teams' conference hopes?

As stated above, a game like this doesn't have records. A game like this doesn't have titles, because a game like this doesn't need anything but the parts to equal much more than the sum, it simply needs to happen. John stated that his anticipation for that game is growing, that he can't wait to play. "It's going to be a dogfight", Grose stated. "I just have a feeling it's going to be a great game.......It's going to be awesome".

They say that about NU versus OU. They say that about the Tide versus the Tigers. They also say that about this game now. In fact, if you just say, Creighton versus NU, you don't have to say anymore.

Play Ball!!!

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