Nebraska was looking to ruin Rutgers’ bid for a series sweep Sunday at Haymarket Park in Lincoln.
The Huskers were hanging tough against the Big Ten-best Scarlet Knights, trailing 3-1 after six innings. But Rutgers got out the dagger in the seventh, scoring 10 runs in the inning to turn its two-run lead into a 13-1 advantage. Those 10 runs came on nine hits: five singles, two doubles and two home runs, one of which was a grand slam from Danny DiGeorgio.
It was the first time a Nebraska opponent scored 10 or more runs in an inning since Georgia Tech did it in the fifth on Feb. 11, 2001. DiGeorgio’s grand slam was the first against the Huskers since Maryland’s Zach Jancarski’s four-run jack in 2018.
When it was all said and done, Rutgers flew back home to Piscataway, New Jersey, with a 19-1 win, completing the sweep and dropping Nebraska’s record to 12-18 overall, 4-5 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights, which came into the series as the top team in the conference, improved to 25-6, 8-1.
The 18-run defeat was the Huskers’ worst home loss since April 4, 1992, when Creighton went home with a win by the same score. The last 18-run loss came against Oklahoma State on April 8, 1995, when the Cowboys beat Nebraska 37-18 in Stillwater.
Nebraska was outhit 19-2 in the loss and struck out eight times while drawing four walks. Cam Chick and Efry Cervantes each had a double.
The Huskers only got 1.2 innings from right-handed starter Dawson McCarville, who started the game by walking the leadoff batter and then giving up a two-run shot to right field the very next batter that put his team in a 2-0 hole right away. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Grand Canyon transfer allowed two earned runs and two hits while walking three and striking out two.
Jackson Brockett, a freshman from Elkhorn South, came on in relief to pitch 4.1 innings of one-run baseball and kept his team in the game. Brockett allowed four hits and struck out four. The relievers who followed Brockett didn’t fare well, however. Tyler Martin, CJ Hood, Will Walsh and Drew Christo combined to give up 11 earned runs (16 total) on 13 hits.
“I didn’t think he (McCarville) was very good. I didn’t like his delivery, I didn’t think he was good,” Nebraska head coach Will Bolt said after the game. “I thought they (Rutgers) were ready to go up 4-0 with another couple of pitches there, so Brockett came in the game and got the left-hander and did his job. He gave us a great chance to win.
“I’d like to see McCarville be a lot more competitive at the beginning of the game, especially on Sunday as a fifth-year guy,” Bolt added. “We need to be more ready to attack at the beginning of the game. He’s walking guys, the ball isn’t sinking, and when the ball isn’t sinking for him, there’s no reason to wait around if you have some guys behind him, and we did. We had a guy on the mound in the seventh that we wanted, and we had Ornelas behind him if we needed it.”
Brockett made a change this year. His tempo on the mound is quicker. Bolt said his “compete level” was raised, meaning he’s trying not to have bad things in his mind stick around. Instead, he gets the ball and goes to work without thinking too much.
“In the beginning of the year, I was a lot slower on the mound, and the past three outings I’ve had, I’ve just been trying to work quicker,” Brockett said. “It allows my body to be more in-sync and not think about the previous pitch, as well as keeping the defense more into it and on their toes.”
Brockett said he liked how his curve ball was working Sunday. He forced five groundouts and three flyouts.
“That’s always been one of my go-to pitches,” he said of the curve. “In the beginning I was leaving it up a little bit, but I made some adjustments and got it to where it needed to be, and it really made the difference.”
Rutgers hit five home runs in the game and ended the series with nine total—three in Friday’s win and one on Saturday.
In the bottom of the fourth, Chick hit a leadoff double that banged off the right-field wall. Max Anderson moved him to third with a groundout to second, then Griffin Everitt hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center that scored Chick and cut Rutgers’ lead to 3-1. There was almost a play at the plate, but Ryan Lasko’s throw from center was off the mark and Chick didn’t need to slide.
In the sixth, Nebraska got runners on first and second with one out thanks to Brice Matthews drawing a walk and Chick getting plunked. Rutgers went to the bullpen after that and sent in freshman reliever Sam Portnoy for starter Justin Sinbaldi. Portnoy struck out Anderson and forced Everitt to fly out to end Big Red’s threat.
The Huskers were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-10 when runners were on Sunday. There weren’t a lot of good swings, according to Bolt.
“We had a couple of good opportunities, but we get picked off on a 3-2 count where you have to see the…just little stuff like that that we have repeatedly done offensively,” Bolt said. “Obviously not a lot of barrels, a great day to hit. Just a poor performance.”
Bolt isn’t running out of things to say to the team following these lopsided losses, though.
“I’m going to keep coaching hard and I’m going to keep expecting great things for this team, because it can turn on a dime,” he said. “Seven days ago, we’re sitting there feeling pretty good about ourselves, just boat-racing somebody (Ohio State) on their field. The game will humble you pretty quick, and we just have to stay on it.
“We’re going to have to piece it together on the mound at times, but we have to get more from our offense. We’ve got to play from ahead—I said it yesterday: we have to start fast. We didn’t start fast on the mound today, spilled into the offense and it’s not a recipe for success.”
Up next for the Huskers is a home contest on Tuesday against Creighton at 6:30 p.m. The Bluejays have won six of the last seven outings against the Huskers, stretching back to 2018. It will be the second and final game between the two this season—Creighton picked up a 3-2 win in Omaha on March 29.
Rutgers 5, Nebraska 4 on Saturday
The Huskers trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh on Saturday, but Colby Gomes changed that with one swing of the bat. After Everitt drew a walk and Nick Wimmers connected on a single, Gomes sent a two-out, three-run homer to deep left that tied the game.
Rutgers responded immediately with two runs in the top of the eighth, though.
Pitcher Braxton Bragg plunked the leadoff batter to put him on first. That wound up stinging the Huskers as the very next batter, Tony Santa Maria, smacked his eighth homer of the season to put his team up 5-3. Nebraska tried to rally in the ninth, but it only produced a single run—an RBI walk from Leighton Banjoff with the bases loaded that sealed the one-run loss.
Earlier in the ninth, Chick was thrown out at home trying to score from first on an Everitt double. Chick went 3-for-4 at the plate.
The Huskers outhit Rutgers 7-4 in the loss, but left nine runners on base and committed three errors. They were 1-of-6 at the plate with runners in scoring position.