Nebraska baseball’s slide continues in series-opening loss at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Nebraska couldn’t buy a clutch hit off Rutgers ace John O’Reilly and the Scarlet Knights produced single runs in four innings to hold on for a 4-2 victory Friday afternoon.

O’Reilly lasted eight-plus innings and 110 pitches for the hosts, scattering five hits and three walks. But the Huskers — who left a runner at third in the first, at the corners in the second and at third in the seventh — finished 0 for 7 with men in scoring position. The offense is now 32 for 130 (.246) in that category during a stretch in which NU has lost 10 of its last 13 games.

“That actually somewhat resembeled a baseball game, which was good to see,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said during his postgame radio interview. “On the other side, they just made a few more plays than we did.”

Nebraska (16-20, 3-8 Big Ten) and Rutgers (20-14, 5-5) continue their series Saturday at noon.

Four double plays also hurt the Huskers, who saw more than two batters reach in an inning just once Friday. Perhaps their best chance late came with a man 90 feet from home in the seventh, but Scott Schreiber grounded out as Rutgers preserved its 3-2 lead. Angelo Altavilla smashed a ball to the center-field wall in the eighth to just miss a game-tying homer.

O’Reilly (5-1) notched the win while Serafino Brito collected his fifth save with a clean ninth inning.

The teams traded lone runs in the second inning — Nebraska on a fielder’s choice RBI by Zac Repinski and Rutgers via Dan DiGeorgio’s first homer of his college career — before Rutgers took the lead in the fourth on an RBI single by No. 9 hitter Luke Bowerbank.

“That’s what these guys do,” Erstad said of Rutgers. “They steal second with two outs, they get a run in. They bunt him over and they get the guy in. This is their formula for winning.”

Schreiber tied the game 2-2 in the top of the sixth when he swatted his 12th long ball of the season to left.

Nebraska starter Luis Alvarado fell short of six innings for the fifth time in his last six starts, going 5-2/3 on 91 pitches. The senior right-hander — who dropped to 2-5 this spring — struck out six while allowing four hits and three walks. Reece Eddins logged 2-1/3 relief frames, giving up an insurance run in the eighth on a sacrifice bunt fielder’s choice.

“It’s one of those games where it’s like a Friday night game where whoever handles the little details a little better is probably going to win,” Erstad said. “We had a couple opportunities and didn’t get anything out of it. We’re going to have to just be ready to go (Saturday).”​