Last time Nebraska was swept in a series was 2029 vs. Oregon State. The last time they were swept in the Big Ten Conference was at Michigan in 2016.
Another beautiful, but windy day in Lincoln provided the setting for the third game of Nebraska’s series against Rutgers. Looking to change the team’s karma, Coach Will Bolt had the team out in their all white uniforms rather than their typical Sunday red tops and white pants. After securing the series win, Rutgers chose a less menacing look, showing up in their traditional road grays. In the pregame, one would not know that the Huskers dropped the last two games in heartbreaking fashion as they appeared loose waiting for the game to start.
The results of the first inning flipped a bit today as Rutgers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Husker righty Shay Schanaman took the mound to attempt to change the fortunes of the Nebraska Nine. However, he struggled to find the strike zone and walked lead-off man Mike Nyisztor on four pitches. Still struggling to fine the zone he threw two more balls before finally getting his first strike call. Two pitches later, Richie Schiekofer laced a double down the rightfield line, scoring Nyisztor and putting Rutgers ahead in the game. Schanaman finally figured out the zone and was able to get ahead in the count to the next three hitters, striking out Ryan Lasko and Danny DiGeorgioa with nasty breaking pitches. He also got Evan Sleight to ground out to second base.
Rutgers put a right hander on the mound today, Brent Teller, with a record of 2-2. It did not take him long to figure out umpire Greg Harmon’s strike zone as he struck out Joe Acker on three pitches, got Jaxson Hallmark to swing on a full count high heater at 94 mph for his second strikeout, and then left Spencer Schwellenbach standing in disbelief after a called strike three. Three Nebraska batters and three strikeouts to start the game.
In the second inning Schanaman got off to a better start with Chris Brito grounding out to shortstop and Kevin Welsh flying out to Mojo Hagge, who showed a lot of hustle getting to a ball in the gap. He then walked Jordan Sweeney and gave up a base hit to catcher Peter Serruto, before designated hitter Mike Nyisztor flew out to Schwellenbach.
The Huskers started the second inning with Luke Roskum grounding out to the second baseman before Max Anderson got the team’s first hit with a single just out of the reach of the Rutger’s shortstop. However, Cam Chick flew out on a short fly ball to left and Anderson was forced out at second on a ground ball hit by Hagge.
Richie Schiekofer led off the third for the Scarlet Knights, grounding weakly for an unassisted putout at first by Luke Roskum. He then got Ryan Lasko out swinging for the second time with his nasty breaking pitch in the dirt. The bottom is really falling out on that pitch for the righthander today! Evan Sleight followed by stroking a single to left, but DiGeorgio was no match for Schanaman as he struck him out swinging again with his breaking ball.
The third inning was lackluster for the Big Red with Griffin Everitt striking out on a high pitch and Efry Cervantes getting tossed out on a nice play by Brito at third fielding a bunt and making the difficult throw to first. Joe Acker then flew out on a weak flyball to Schiekofer in rightfield.
Chris Brito jumped on Schanaman to open the fourth with a base hit over the shortstop’s head. He advanced to third base as Kevin Welsh lashed a double down the right field line on a Schanaman fastball. Jordan Sweeney then hit a grounder to short that was deep enough to allow Brito to score. Schwellenbach threw him out at first for the out. Serruto left the field to Dream On as he became the latest strikeout victim of the Schanaman slider. However, Shay drill Nyisztor in the back, giving him his base and then Richie Schiekofer got his second hit of the day, banging a double off the wall in right-center. That scored two Scarlet Knights, putting them ahead 4-0. Ryan Lasko looked at strike three for his third strikeout of the game to end the inning.
Jaxon Hallmark chased another high pitch to lead off the fourth with a strikeout for the Huskers. Schwellenbach then took a five-pitch walk. Luke Roskum hit a long flyball to the opposite field in left for an out, but Schwellenbach did tag and advance to second base. He was left stranded there when Max Anderson just got a little bit under a pitch that was caught by Evan Sleight at the warning track. At this point in the game, Nebraska has only put two runners on base and have not been able to really level up their bats to drive the ball.
Schanaman had a good fifth inning, started by striking out Sleight and then seeing both DiGeorgio and Brito fly out to Hallmark in centerfield. Halfway through the game, Rutgers leads 4-0 and the Huskers have been able to only muster one hit.
The anemic bats showed up again for the boys in their half of the fifth as Cam Chick chased yet another high pitch for strike three to lead things off. Mojo Hagge tried to reach first on a bunt he dropped down in front of the plate, though he was thrown out relatively easy by catcher Peter Serruto. Griffin Everitt did provide a little excitement lashing a ball down the third base line, but it was foul. He walked on the next pitch, bringing up Cervantes, who also found Teller’s high fastball too attractive to layoff of, striking out to end the inning.
As the Scarlet Knights came to the plate in the sixth having fun at the YMCA, Cam Chick made yet another beautiful defensive play on a high chopper by Kevin Welsh to record the first out of the inning. Schanaman got yet another swinging strikeout, this time by Sweeney. Two pitches later, Peter Serruto flew out to right, ending a very quick inning for Shay Schanaman.
The Cornhusker sixth looked like it would be a repeat of the top of the inning. Acker grounded out to third and then Hallmark skyed a ball that was caught by the shortstop in the middle of the infield. Then Teller seemed to prefer to pitch around Schwellenbach and ended up walking him. He then hit Roskum on the foot, putting two Huskers on the bases for the first time in the game. That brought the Rutgers pitching coach out for a little chat. The crowd sensed that this could be a bit moment with Max Anderson coming up. As they shared recipes at the mound, Will Bolt walked out to give a few encouraging words to Anderson along with a pat on the rump. Anderson took a swing at a pitch he probably should have let go and flied out to center, ending the sixth for the Huskers.
Shay Schanaman was pulled for Cody Frank after he walked the first batter, Mike Nyisztor, in the top of the seventh. Schanaman gave up four earned runs on the day and had eight strikeouts. Then two-hole hitter Schiekofer put down a bunt that had to bounce at least fifteen feet into the air. By the time Frank fielded it, he was already crossing first base. With two runners on, Ryan Lasko tried to advance them with a bunt, but ended up fouling out to first. A ground ball to short by Sleight ended made the second out. Then Frank ended the threat by getting DiGeorgio to ground out to Cervantes at third.
Cam Chick popped up to the shortstop and Mojo Hagge ground out to the same spot on the very next pitch to start the seventh inning. At a point in the game when you should be making pitchers throw pitches, Teller had two outs only throwing four of them. Griffin Everitt came to the plate next, and weakly fanned at strike three.
After the Boss reminded the team between innings they were Born in the U.S.A., Chris Brito smacked a Frank pitch to the gap in right-center. Jaxon Hallmark covered a lot of ground, laying out to make the catch. However, he could not hang on to it and Brito had a double. He was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Welsh. Frank then struck out Sweeney for out number two. Peter Serruto ended the inning by grounding out to short, leaving Brito standing on third base.
Their team down by four runs, no Nebraska fans would Shut Up and Dance With Me between innings, but Gunner Hellstrom was ready to take his shot and was put in to pinch hit for Cervantes. On a 2-2 pitch, he stroked a single to right over the head of second baseman. The crowd gave a big cheer for the second Husker hit of the day. That also resulted in Luke Sartori being put in to pinch run for Gunner, and for Rutgers Head Coach Owens to called it a day for Brent Teller. The Rutgers starter threw 100 pitches over seven innings and struck out eight Cornhuskers. Kyle Muller came in to relieve him. Joe Acker swung at his first pitch and hit a lazy fly caught by the right fielder. Hallmark then hit one to the wall that was caught by Lasko in center for the second out. Spencer Schwellenbach then stuck out.
The Scarlet Knights mindset in the 9th inning seemed to be the same as it has been the whole series: Finish! Their best hitter, and tough out all weekend, Mike Nyisztor started things out with yet another base hit. He was advanced to second on a bunt by Schiekofer, who was thrown out by Frank. With one out, Ryan Lasko drew a walk. That was followed by another base hit for Evan Sleight, scoring Nyisztor. DiGeorgio flew out to left. Frank then gave up his second walk of the inning, loading the bases. Coach Christy saw enough and brought on Caleb Feekin, who walked Welsh and gave up another run. A flyout to center by Jordan Sweeney ended the inning, but not after Rutgers added two more runs to their total.
Luke Roskum worked new pitcher Dale Stanavich a bit before grounding out to second. Max Anderson then followed by also going down 4-3. Cam Chick came up, hit one deep in the hole and beat shortstop Danny DiGeorgio’s throw to first for the third Husker hit of the game. Logan Foster was put in to pinch hit. Chick stole second base and advance to third on a passed ball, while Foster took a base on balls. Griffin Everitt then ended the game and the series by grounding out to Kevin Welsh at second base. Final score: Rutgers 6 and Nebraska 0.
Whether it was intentional or not, the staff member responsible for music at Haymarket Park chose Tom Petty’s Free Falling at the conclusion of the game as both team’s huddle in their respective outfields for final words from their coaches. Certainly, not a good choice of tunes to play at this point.
Rutgers was able to consistently put their lead-off hitters on base, not only today, but all weekend. By comparison, Nebraska often did not put a runner on base today with less than two outs. Rutgers also got tremendous production out of their lead-off hitter, Mike Nyisztor, and while he got a couple of homeruns in the series, Joe Acker rarely found his way to first base. The point is, you have to put runners on base to score runs and there must be timely hitting when you do. That did not happen consistently for the Big Red this weekend. One cannot discount the effectiveness of Rutgers pitching staff as they showed a lot of poise and battled each and every at-bat. They got a number of strikeouts this weekend, and they did not give away nearly as many free bases as Husker pitching did.
To put this in perspective, this is the first time Nebraska was swept in a series since 2019 when they dropped one in the early season to perennial power, Oregon State. You have to go back to 2016 when they were last swept in the Big Ten at Michigan. Will Bolt and his staff have to convince the team that things like this happen in baseball and that next Friday they have a chance to return at least part of the favor as they travel to Piscataway, where they will play two against the Indiana Hoosiers before ending with a couple against these same Scarlet Knights. It will be a difficult road trip for this team, one that will go a long way to writing the story of the 2021 Cornhusker baseball team.