Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Huskers’ Approach at the Plate Not Where It Needs to Be in Loss to Rutgers

April 08, 2022

The team atop the Big Ten Conference baseball standings took game one of a three-game series against Nebraska Friday night at Haymarket Park.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights held the Huskers to five hits along the way to a 7-5 win. Griffin Everitt’s two-out, three-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Huskers a bit of life in the end, but that was all the rally had in it. Nebraska’s record drops to 12-16 overall and 4-3 in conference play. With the victory, Rutgers improved to 22-7, 6-1.

Nebraska’s batters failed to make a salty Scarlet Knights’ pitching staff pay when runners were in scoring position—they went just 1-of-10 on the night and left nine runners on base.

“I just didn’t think our offensive approach was very good,” Nebraska head coach Will Bolt said after the game. “And just in terms of sticking our nose on the ball and taking what the pitcher gave us.”

Brice Matthews and Colby Gomes each had two hits in the game. Cam Chick connected on an RBI triple. Everitt’s three RBIs were the most on the team—he has 25 on the season now.

Rutgers’ starting pitcher, right-hander Jared Kollar, recovered from a shaky first inning and pitched six innings of two-run baseball.

Kollar had command issues in the first, but the Huskers couldn’t convert on a golden opportunity. Kollar walked the leadoff man, Matthews, and two-hole hitter Chick in the opening inning. After a fly out from Max Anderson moved Matthews to third with one out, a wild pitch allowed Matthews to score and tie the game at one. The Huskers loaded the bases with one out shortly after, but Nick Wimmers popped up and Luke Sartori grounded out to end the threat.

“In the moment you have to just bounce back and keep going, but, yeah, that definitely hurt not to be able to punch those runs in,” Everitt said. “We had a chance to throw a haymaker there right at the beginning of the game and we just weren’t able to get it done.”

To Bolt, the approach at the plate isn’t where it needs to be. He wants the Husker batters to be committed to it.

“That was the message to the team after the game. We were the team last week getting the two-out RBI, we were the team last week splitting the right-center field gap and hitting a grand slam to dead center,” Bolt said. “And that’s what they did to us tonight—that’s a mature lineup. They’re a team that, if you make a mistake out over the plate, they’re going to hurt you. And when you get in those situations, you have to be able to cover the plate.

“If you can cover the plate, then you can hit the off-speed pitches, too. We’re just not committed enough, top to bottom.”

After his wild first inning, Kollar settled in. He wound up retiring 13 straight batters stretching from the first to fifth inning. Reliever Sam Bello and closer Dale Stanavich finished the Huskers off.

Shay Schanaman got the start on the mound for the Huskers, but the Rutgers’ bats blasted three home runs on the Grand Island native. In six innings of work, Schanaman allowed nine hits and seven earned runs. He struck out seven batters and walked one. Chandler Benson and Corbin Hawkins combined to throw three innings of scoreless baseball. Benson struck out two batters.

Rutgers’ Ryan Lasko and Nick Cimillo hurt the Huskers on Friday and each had three RBIs. Lasko pounded two home runs—one in the first inning, the other in the sixth—while Cimillo, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in batting average (.423) and hits (44), had the other, a two-out, two-run shot to center for his eighth long ball of the season.

Like Nebraska did last week at Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights did well at the plate with two outs, hitting .471 (8-of-17). Nebraska was just .231 (3-of-13).

In the bottom of the fifth, Matthews had Nebraska’s first hit of the game, a single to left field. Chick followed with an RBI triple that cut Rutgers’ lead to 4-2. The Scarlet Knights answered immediately, however, with a Mike Nyisztor RBI double and Lasko’s second homer of the night.

With Bello on the mound, Nebraska started the seventh with a Colby Gomes single and an Efry Cervantes walk, but the Huskers never got the hit to send any of them home. After Gomes was moved to third by a sacrifice fly to right, Chick struck out and Anderson grounded out to end the threat.

Saturday’s starting pitcher will be Emmett Olson, who’s largely been used as a reliever this season. With injuries and the departure of Jaxon Jelkin from the team, the Husker bullpen has grown thinner as the season has gone on.

“He’s stretched out to a decent amount before the season, he’s had a couple extended outings,” Bolt said of Olson. “He’s typically been a strike thrower, so if he can work quick, throw strikes and then get us off to a good start.”

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