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Rutgers baseball edges Nebraska in series opener

Knights even up conference record through ten games.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Nebraska v Purdue
Nebraska was that close in the opener, but RU prevailed.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Rutgers baseball continued Big Ten action Friday against Nebraska needing a win to even their record in conference play. A victory for the visiting Huskers would have tied them in the standings with the Scarlet Knights in the middle of the Big Ten pack.

Friday: Rutgers 4, Nebraska 2

Rutgers baseball squeaked out a win against Monmouth earlier in the week and returned to Bainton Field with John O’Reilly looking to bounce back from a rough opening to his start a week prior. He pitched out of a jam in the first inning to strand a runner at 3rd. Nebraska manufactured a run in the 2nd, but Dan DiGeorgio homered for his first collegiate big fly to tie the game at one apiece in the bottom half.

Rutgers added another run in the 4th to take their first lead in the game. With two out, Kyle Walker stole second and was knocked in by Luke Bowerbank on an opposite field single. Nebraska responded in their next turn at bat on a home run by first baseman Scott Schreiber to tie the game 2-2.

Rutgers was able to scratch out another run in the 6th. Carmen Sclafani was hit by a pitch to open the inning and bunted to second by DiGeorgio. The move paid off as Kyle Walker stayed just inside the left field line for a double scoring Sclafani to give Rutgers a narrow 3-2 advantage.

A huge showdown took place in the 7th as Nebraska looked to get it right back. After a leadoff walk, Nebraska had Zac Repinski at 3rd with two out and the dangerous Schreiber at the dish. After a prolonged battle, O’Reilly was able to coax a grounder to second base handled by Kevin Welsh to retire the side.

Then Coach Joe Litterio elected to send his senior back out for an 8th inning of work. O’Reilly hit the leadoff man with a pitch and seemed to be on the ropes, but got the ground ball to Kevin Welsh at second base he needed turned into a double play by DiGeorgio. A running catch by Jawuan Harris on the warning track recorded the third out of the inning.

Rutgers offense used the momentum to plate an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th on a successful squeeze bunt from Welsh. Later in the inning Nebraska turned a double play to avoid further trouble and keep it 4-2 with a just one frame left to play. O’Reilly came out for the 9th and after allowing a leadoff baserunner, was lifted from the game for closer Serafino Brito. Brito wasted no time inducing a double play and striking out Repinski to end the game and get his 5th save in the process.

Decisive stat: Three double plays turned by Rutgers to one for Nebraska. In a game that saw no crooked numbers on the scoreboard, the Scarlet Knights were able to turn two in the 1st, 8th, and 9th innings. Nebraska’s one DP in the 8th was also huge as it gave them a chance in the 9th, but RU’s 6-4-3 erased the tying runner in the final frame.

Notable: To earn his team leading 5th win of the campaign, O’Reilly went 8+ innings allowing five hits, two earned runs, and recording four strikeouts. Sclafani scored two of the team’s runs. Harris did hit the wall after his catch but hopefully will be good to go for tomorrow.

Opponent notables: Leadoff man and leftfielder Mojo Hagge (awesome name) had the Huskers only extra base hit. Screiber came into the game hitting .399 with 11 bombs, adding the aforementioned homer to that total. Starting pitcher Luis Alvarado went 5.2 innings, striking out six.

Next up

Rutgers continues their Big Ten schedule 1 pm Saturday against Nebraska at Bainton Field. The series finale Sunday will be at noon.

After that, RU is in-state again at Rider next Tuesday April 24.