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Rutgers loses Big Ten Tournament opener to Nebraska 9-7



Photo credit Tom Gilbert/Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers baseball (33-22; 14-10) lost its opening round game of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday to Nebraska at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha. Holding a 6-3 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the No. 4 seeded Huskers scored six runs to take control. The No. 5 seeded Scarlet Knights lost 9-7 and now head to the consolation bracket.

It was a strange game with both teams scoring on walks and hit batsmen. Rutgers had an up and down day on the mound while losing to Nebraska despite holding a 9-7 advantage on hits. The RU pitching staff allowed nine walks and hit four batters in the loss.

Starting pitcher Christian Coppola, who was named First Team All-Big Ten and to the All-Freshman team this week, surrendered a three run homer in the first inning. However, he bounced back with five scoreless innings and just two more hits allowed in his first career postseason start.

It allowed Rutgers to take a 6-3 lead after six innings. The Scarlet Knights tied it in the fifth inning and jumped ahead in the top of the seventh inning.

Unfortunately, the bullpen could not hold the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Grant Besser allowed a three run homer to tie the game without recording an out. Rutgers closer Ben Gorski, who was named Third Team All-Big Ten, ended up loading the bases and allowing three runs. Uncharacteristically, Gorski struggled with his command. He walked four batters, two of which resulted in runs as well as hitting a Husker with a pitch that also scored a run.

In the eighth inning, First Team All-Big Ten selection Ryan Lasko scored Jordan Sweeney with a single. It was the 200th hit of his Rutgers career. He is just the 20th player in program history to accomplish the milestone.

Third Team All-Big Ten selection Evan Sleight was 2 of 4 at the plate with 3 RBIs. Andy Axelson was 2 of 3 with an RBI, while All-Freshman Team selection Trevor Cohen was 2 of 3 with a run scored. Lasko finished with 2 RBIs while Second Team All-Big Ten honoree Chris Brito scored twice.

Rutgers will now play No. 8 Michigan State in an elimination game on Thursday. The first pitch is at 11 a.m. ET and will air live on the Big Ten Network. It’s the last chance for the Scarlet Knights to keep its season alive.

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