Nolan Clifford making an impact on Creighton

OMAHA, Neb. – Nolan Clifford is a rarity.

And no, it isn’t just for how he plays on the field but also for how he conducts himself around the game of baseball. Clifford plays in college baseball’s mecca city, Omaha, Nebraska, for a mid-major program in the Creighton Bluejays.

From Naperville, Illinois, Clifford grew up on baseball. He played it, and he lived it. After all, his favorite movie is The Sandlot. A pitcher and hitter in high school, Clifford was a 2020 Perfect Game All-American selection while playing for Neuqua Valley High School.

Four years later, Clifford, now a senior at Creighton, has started all four of his collegiate seasons. This is not only an impressive testament to his play but also a rare instance in college baseball.

“Most of the time when they come in as freshmen, they have to kind of play behind somebody and wait for that person to graduate or get drafted before they get opportunities, but Nolan got an opportunity right away,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said.

Now, 10 games into the 2024 campaign, Creighton has a 9-1 record and Clifford is batting .529 with three home runs, 15 RBIs, and three stolen bases – a start that isn’t new to Clifford. Last season, he batted .400 through 11 games.

So, what’s different about this season’s start, besides the obvious .133 difference in batting percentage and the fact that the Bluejays barely kept a .500 record through those first 11 games of 2023?

For Clifford, his performance this season is a culmination of years of hard work and dedication. From his freshman season, where he was thrust into a starting role, to now, as a seasoned senior, he has evolved as a player and a leader.

“I’ve learned so much about myself as a person, not just as a baseball player,” said Clifford. “Coach Servais does an incredible job developing players. I feel really well-prepared for whatever life throws at me.”

Nolan Clifford 1
Photo of Nolan Clifford courtesy of Creighton athletics.

Servais has seen Clifford’s development from his freshmen year to now, and he sees stark differences.

“Nolan has played a lot of baseball,” said Servais. “His decision-making has been outstanding, and he’s gotten stronger offensively. He’s recognizing strikes better and not getting himself out as much.”

Significant milestones and standout performances have marked Clifford’s journey to this point. In his junior year, he appeared and started in 47 games, showcasing his versatility by playing shortstop and first base. Despite his previously mentioned strong start, Clifford struggled to maintain his performance throughout the season, a challenge he is determined to overcome this year.

“With the start I’m having this year, my main goal is definitely to just stay consistent, and try to maintain a high level of play throughout the whole season,” Clifford said. “I don’t want this to just be kind of another one of those glimpses that I’ve kind of shown in past seasons.”

Part of what makes Clifford so great is his leadership and vocality in the locker room. He has taken on a more significant role within the team, encouraging his teammates and setting a high standard for performance.

“I’m really pleased that he’s taken on more of a leadership role,” said Servais. “He’s very engaged in games, vocal, and understands that this is his team. I’m very pleased with what he’s done so far.”

As Clifford looks ahead to the rest of the season, his goals remain clear: make an NCAA Tournament regional, win a conference championship and leave a lasting impact on the Creighton baseball program.

With his dedication, talent and leadership, Clifford is poised to lead the Bluejays to new heights in 2024 and beyond, leaving a legacy that will inspire future generations of Creighton baseball players.

Jonah Waits
Jonah Waits
Jonah Waits is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Sports Media and Mass Communications. He has previously covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the Nebraska News Service. Follow him on X (Twitter) @WaitsJonah.

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