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Nebraska Baseball Big Ten Tournament Preview: Rutgers

The teams meet for the first time this season on Wednesday.

Nebraska Athletic Department

#5 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (33-21) at #4 Nebraska Cornhuskers (31-21-1)

Location: Charles Schwab Field, Omaha, NE

Date/Time: Wednesday, May 24th @ 2 pm CT

Head Coaches: Steve Owens (4th season, 773-469-2) & Will Bolt (4th season, 95-73-1)

TV/Stream: BTN

Radio: Huskers Radio Network,, Huskers App

Probable Pitchers: LHP Emmett Olson (6-3, 4.42 ERA) vs. RHP Christian Coppola (5-5, 3.60 ERA)

Nebraska Scouting Report

You may recall a fiery players only meeting before the last time the Huskers were playing in Charles Schwab Field. Following the loss of the continuation of the weather altered Creighton game, Senior captain Kyle Perry let it be known that he was tired of losing. All the team has done since then is go 6-1, seemingly peaking at the perfect time going into a tournament they must win to continue their season in the NCAA tournament.

Nebraska fresh off avenging a 2022 season ending loss under conspicuous circumstances to Purdue, was able to win the series while keeping their pitching in good order for the Tournament this week. Emmett Olson will take the mound on 6 days rest from throwing 65 relatively low stress pitches last Thursday. Though he didn’t pitch long enough to qualify for the win, he seemed to have righted the ship from his slide a few weeks ago.

The bullpen too is in good shape. Corbin Hawkins and Kyle Perry are the only pitchers that went multiple outings, but only threw 67 and 32 pitches respectively.

The offense looks to be full speed ahead as First Team All-Conference player Brice Matthews returns from his weekend off. It was an actual back issue that kept him out of the relatively meaningless series, not just general rest, but Matthews should be as close to 100% as he’s been in weeks as the tournament begins. Casey Burnham is also back after getting most of the day off to end the season. It may be a blessing in disguise as they’re replacements. Blake Mosley and Luke Sartori put together solid at bats, and showed some defensive flashes.

Rutgers Scouting Report

While bringing back the names you may recognize if you attended the Rutgers series or Big Ten Tournament, where they made a run to the championship game last year, the production from those bats is down. After leading the league in many offensive categories by a wide margin last year, they sit somewhere in the 5-7 range in most this season.

Ryan Lasko still leads them in batting at .332, with Evan Slight and Chris Brito right behind him at .311 and .308. The trio each have 11+ home runs on the season and OPS over 1.000. Trevor Cohen is capable of going off on a hot streak, as he’s been Big Ten Freshman of the week twice this season. He is hitting .288 on the year with 33 RBIs and 40 runs scored. The Knights run a little on the base paths, having similar numbers to Nebraska.

Pitching has been the most consistent strength for Rutgers this season. They own the 2nd best ERA in the Big Ten after Iowa. It really came into focus when true freshman Christian Coppola transitioned to Friday night starter in mid April. He had a string of solid outings before having the wheels fall off against Minnesota last week. He owns a 3.60 ERA with 68 Ks and 23 walks in 60 innings.

The Rutgers bullpen is led again by closer Ben Gorski. He has 8 saves on the season, with 48 Ks in 39 innings pitched. Sophomore LHP Joe Mazza and sophomore RHP Sam Portnoy are the two most utilized middle relievers. Portnoy has a 3.69 ERA, but is not a big strikeout guy, while Mazza averages over a strikeout per inning, but is also more likely to walk batters, and has an ERA of 4.83 on the season.

Series History

Nebraska leads the all time series vs Rutgers 11-9. Rutgers however has won the last 7 games in a row, with sweeps in Lincoln in both 2021 and 2022. The last time Nebraska beat Rutgers was April 21, 2018 in Piscataway, NJ.

Husker Notes

  • While Nebraska has made all but 1 Big Ten Tournament since joining the league, with the cancellations of the two tournaments, it has been 4 years since the Huskers played this week. Kyle Perry and Shay Schanaman are the only two Huskers to play in a Big Ten Tournament game.
  • Max Anderson continues to climb season and career charts, he is 7 hits shy of being the first Husker to 100 hits since Jeff Leise and Jed Morris both accomplished the feat in 2002.
  • Brice Matthews needs just 1 steal to be the first Husker member of the 20 HRs-20 steals club.
  • Don’t forget to vote for Max Anderson for the Golden Spike Award.