Nebraska baseball had its chances, but couldn’t make the plays to get it over the edge in its 7-5 series-opening loss against Rutgers on Friday night.
The Huskers left nine runners on base, and six of Rutgers’ seven runs came with two outs in the inning.
The lone exception came on the game’s opening at-bat when Rutgers sophomore center fielder Ryan Lasko's lead off fly ball sailed over the right field wall for a home run, handing Nebraska a 1-0 deficit.
Senior pitcher Jared Kollar struggled in the bottom half of the opening frame for Rutgers, pitching 39 of his 100 pitches in the inning.
Kollar walked the first two batters he faced, including leadoff sophomore shortstop Brice Matthews. Matthews then reached third after tagging up on a fly out by sophomore third baseman Max Anderson, and reached home standing up on a wild pitch to tie the game.
Kollar subsequently walked the next two batters, loading the bases with only one out. The opportunity was squandered as junior designated hitter Nick Wimmers popped out and junior centerfielder Luke Sartori grounded out to end the threat.
“I thought we laid off some really tough pitches to set that inning up and then we got passive with the bases loaded and weren’t able to cash in,” Nebraska manager Will Bolt said postgame.
Kollar had his way with the Huskers lineup from there. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, striking out five batters in the game.
In the second, third and fourth innings, Nebraska’s offense was completely extinguished by Kollar. In those three consecutive innings, Kollar retired every batter he faced.
“He was working good tunneling his fastball and curveball,” senior catcher Griffin Everitt said postgame. “We just didn’t have an approach with it. We were kinda letting him have both sides of the plate with his fastball.”
Rutgers took the lead again in the top of the third. Senior left fielder Mike Nyisztor first reached base after being hit by a pitch, and found his way to third on a single by junior right fielder Richie Schiekofer. Rutgers instantly drove him home with junior catcher Nick Cimillo’s single, giving the Scarlet Knights a 2-1 advantage.
Cimillo wasn’t done plating runners, being the two-out hero for Rutgers in the top of the fifth inning. His home run to deep centerfield scored two for Rutgers to take a 4-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Huskers finally spoiled the no-hit bid. Matthews dropped a single into left field to the delight of the crowd. The Huskers did not need to wait long for their next hit, as senior left fielder Cam Chick smacked a triple to deep right field, scoring the surging Matthews.
Chick stayed put at third after an Anderson groundout ended the inning, with the Huskers cutting the lead to 4-2.
The comeback bid quickly faded as Rutgers further pulled ahead in the top of the sixth. Junior first baseman Chris Brito placed a line drive directly in the right-center field gap, and reached second base standing for a double. Nyisztor later hit a double of his own, bringing in Brito.
Lasko then continued his stellar day by notching his second home run of the night to extend the Rutgers lead to 7-2.
Nebraska made a last gasp effort in the bottom of the ninth.
Junior first baseman Colby Gomes led off the inning with a single for his second hit of the game. Matthews followed with a single of his own, and Chick was hit by a pitch to give Nebraska the bases loaded with only one out.
Anderson then went down swinging, putting the Nebraska comeback on its last legs. Everitt injected new life in the rally, clearing the bases with a double down the left field line, slicing the Rutgers lead to 7-5.
However, the potential tying run, freshman right fielder Garrett Anglim went down looking on a pitch on the right edge of the strike zone, ending the game.
The loss dropped Nebraska to 12-16, and further extended Rutgers’ lead atop the Big Ten.