– Propelled by back-to-back home runs from juniors Nick Matera
and Carmen Sclafani
in the fifth inning, Rutgers baseball plated six unanswered runs to come back and beat Nebraska, 8-4, in the rubber game of the series Sunday at Bainton Field. The Scarlet Knights won their seventh series in the last eight weekends and topped the Cornhuskers in a conference set for the first time in three attempts.
The victory pushed RU to 21-15 overall and 6-6 at the midpoint of the Big Ten schedule, as the seven series triumphs are the most since 2013. Nebraska, the defending Big Ten champions, dropped to 17-21 and 4-9.
Matera tied his career high career with five RBIs on the day, smoking a two-run single and a three-run homer. Both of those hits came with two outs. Sclafani and senior Milo Freeman
also had two hits, while sophomore Kevin Welsh
reached his first three times up. Rutgers improved to 51-13 since 2016 when scoring six or more in a game. In addition, six of the eight runs came home with two down to make it 84 RBIs as a team this year in that situation.
On the mound, redshirt sophomore Tommy Genuario
(3-0) matched his season-long outing with 3.2 scoreless innings in relief. The right-hander struck out two and handed the ball to junior Serafino Brito
for the ninth inning. Brito sat down the side in order to seal the win. Graduate student Karl Blum
started after providing four innings on Tuesday, logging four more frames with two runs allowed.
The momentum of the fifth inning first sided with Nebraska, as the visitors scored two to take a 4-2 lead. Genuario was able to keep it there by starting a double play.
Then in the bottom half, Welsh drew a walk and advanced to second on a balk with one out. After a fly out and a pitching change, junior Jawuan Harris
took ball four on full count to bring up Matera. The catcher eyed two balls before lifting a towering three-run homer to right-center that put the Scarlet Knights on top, his team-leading fifth of the season. Sclafani followed with another long drive to right-center to add another. RU last went back-to-back against St. Joseph's in 2016 and only did it one other time in Big Ten play, 2015 at Illinois.
Armed with 6-4 lead, Genuario pitched around a two-out single to post a scoreless sixth. Rutgers next padded its lead with two more after. Redshirt freshman Dan DiGeorgio
and Freeman both singled to start, with Welsh executing a slash to shoot an RBI single through the left side. Freshman Mike Nyisztor
lifted a sacrifice fly two batters later to make it six unanswered.
Genuario and Brito combined to hold the game from there. Jake McSteen (1-2) suffered the loss for Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers loaded the bases in the first inning, but DiGeorgio denied any runs from scoring by lunging for a catch up the middle on the lined shot. Scott Schreiber did blast a two-run homer to put the visitors ahead in the third, but Rutgers quickly matched. Freeman cued a single, Welsh walked and Harris singled to load the bases. With two outs, Matera lined a two-run single to even the score. That would be the last of the scoring until the decisive fifth inning.
Rutgers will be home Wednesday versus Saint Peter's at 3 p.m. The Rider contest scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.
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