Nebraska didn’t show up at Haymarket Park on Sunday.
The first 29 games this season, “I’ll give our guys all the credit in the world,” Coach Will Bolt said following Rutgers’ three-game sweep of the Huskers with a 6-0 victory on Sunday.
“We had showed up ready to compete at a high level, even when we’ve lost. I felt that way the first two games this weekend; it just didn’t go our way. Today was not one of those days.”
Nebraska managed only three singles against Scarlet Knight pitching, beginning with right-hander Brent Teller, who allowed only two of those singles in seven innings and one batter—Gunner Hellstrom, pinch-hitting for Efry Cervantes, singled to open the eighth.
Teller struck out eight and walked three.
Bolt credited Teller and his teammates for their efforts, and not just on Sunday. Rutgers had a combined 33 hits in the three games, while its pitching allowed only 16 hits.
Even so, Bolt shouldered responsibility for the Huskers’ first series loss of the season and their first Big Ten series loss since Michigan swept three games at Ann Arbor in mid-April 2016.
“We had a hangover going from yesterday,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, and that starts with me. I’ve got to have our team ready to turn the page better than, obviously, we were today. We didn’t set a tone on the mound, at the plate, just all the way around.
“We weren’t ready to play. That’s ultimately my job as the head coach.”
Nebraska was in position to win both Friday’s and Saturday’s games.
The Huskers led 3-2 after seven innings Friday night. Cade Povich went the first five innings, allowing the two runs on six hits. But relief pitching, which had been outstanding the last two series, faltered. Rutgers scored seven runs in the last two innings, with the aid of two walks and three hit batters.
The Scarlet Knights, who entered the weekend with a 14-13 record, “took everything that we’ve been doing well, as far as selfless baseball,” said Nebraska right fielder Joe Acker. “Everything that we’ve done to win games this year they did against us . . . we weren’t there this weekend at all.”
Acker hit an inside-the-park home run on Friday night, and another home run on Saturday. So did Luke Roskam and Spencer Schwellenbach, as the Huskers took a 5-1 lead into the seventh.
Chance Hroch pitched the first five innings, allowing the one run on five hits.
Again, Nebraska didn’t get effective relief. Rutgers scored three runs in the seventh and a run each in the eighth and ninth, when the Huskers left the tying run at third.
As a result of the losses, Nebraska, now 20-10, drops to second in the Big Ten, with Indiana climbing to first by winning two of three from Iowa in Bloomington, to improve to 20-9. Michigan is third, behind the Huskers (.667) by percentage points. The Wolverines are 21-11 (.656).
Next up for Nebraska are four games, the first two against Indiana, the second pair against Rutgers. All four will be played in Piscataway, beginning on Saturday and two games on Sunday.
“We’re not going to make wholesale changes,” Bolt said. “I just think maybe the intent with which we work just needs to be amplified a little bit.”
The Huskers lost three in a row in mid-March—to Ohio State and Iowa in Minneapolis and to Iowa in Iowa City the next week—then responded by winning seven in a row.
Attendance for the Rutgers series was 14,088, including 5,013 on Friday night.
“I feel like I need to apologize to our fans. They showed up in huge numbers this weekend,” said Bolt. “We had a chance to salvage something today and we laid a big egg.”
Another unpleasant figure of speech . . .