Huskers Drop Series Opener to Rutgers, 9-4
Lincoln – The #22 Nebraska baseball team held a 3-2 lead headed to the seventh inning, but was unable to finish the win as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights scored four runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth on its way to a 9-4 series-opening win on Friday night at Hawks Field.
Nebraska was held to just four hits in the defeat, while Rutgers totaled 10 hits from eight different players.
Cade Povich worked 5.0 innings in his ninth start of the season and left the game with a 3-2 lead. The left hander allowed two runs on six hits and one walk, while striking out two. Harry Rutkowski struck out seven for Rutgers and gave up just four hits over 6.0 innings, but was tagged for three runs (two earned). Three Scarlet Knight relievers combined to toss 3.0 innings of no-hit relief and Kyle Muller picked up the win to improve to 2-2 on the year.
Two of NU's four hits were home runs from Joe Acker and Jaxon Hallmark. Acker's fourth home run of the season was an inside-the-park home run, the first by a Husker since Cam Chick did it earlier this season at Illinois.
After Povich retired Rutgers in order to start the game, NU's offense pushed across a run in the bottom of the first. Acker worked a leadoff walk before Hallmark executed a bunt single, and on the play Rutkowski threw the ball down the right-field line and Acker scored all the way from first on the error. With Hallmark on third an no out Spencer Schwellenbach hit a hard ground ball to third baseman Chris Brito, who was able to tag out Hallmark for the first out of the inning. Rutkowski followed up with consecutive groundouts to limit the damage to one run.
Povich retired six straight to start the game before the bottom of RU's order put together a scoring threat. Kevin Welsh worked a leadoff walk, Jordan Sweeney singled to right and Peter Serruto laid down a bunt single to load the bases with no out for the top of the order. Ryan Lasko stepped in and tied the game with a single to left before Richie Schiekofer hit into a fielder's choice, with Luke Roskam throwing home to get Sweeney. Brito then delivered a single to left that scored Serruto and on the play Mojo Hagge fired to home to cut down Lasko at the plate. Povich ended the frame with a 6-3 groundout, but the Scarlet Knights had taken a 2-1 lead.
The lead lasted just three pitches, as Acker led off the bottom of the third with NU's second inside-the-park home run of the season. Acker saw two balls to start his at bat and then lined an offering to center and Lasko tried to make a diving catch, but the ball got by him and went all the way to the wall. Two batters later NU had the go-ahead run on base when Schwellenbach worked a four-pitch one-out walk, but he ended the inning stranded at second.
With the game tied 2-2, neither team scored in the fourth and then Hallmark put the Huskers back ahead in the fifth with one swing. The senior form Midland, Texas, led off the bottom of the fifth and blasted the first pitch he saw over the 403 sign in left-center field for his fourth home run of the season. Rutkowski responded by retiring the next three batters in order, but the Huskers had retaken the lead, 3-2.
The Scarlet Knights mounted a threat in the top of the seventh when a leadoff walk and a one-out walk put two runners on the for the top of the order. Reliever Jake Bunz dug in and got out of the jam with a 5-3 double play to end the frame, keeping the Huskers up by a run.
After failing to take advantage of a pair of walks in the seventh Rutgers cashed in four free passes in the eighth, as the first four batters of the inning reached on a pair of walks and a pair of hit-by-pitches. The second hit-by-pitch forced in a run, tying the game at 3-3, and the bases were still loaded with no out. Evan Sleight gave Rutgers the lead with a sacrifice fly and Welsh followed with a RBI double. Reliever Cam Wynne then got a 1-6-3 groundout, but another run scored and then reliever Max Schreiber put an end to the bleeding with a ground out, but not before Rutgers scored four runs to take a 6-3 lead.
Rutgers tacked on three more runs in the eighth to take a commanding 9-3 lead. Nebraska was able to plate one run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Hallmark, but was unable to mount a multi-run comeback.
The Huskers and Scarlet Knights meet again on Saturday afternoon at 4 PM.