Well, that was not exactly the start we were hoping to see out of Iowa baseball after last year's breakout success -- the Hawkeyes went down to Dallas for a season opening series against Dallas Baptist... and promptly got swept, three games to none (5-1, 7-3, and 4-1). To be sure, we didn't exactly have sky-high expectations for this series -- Dallas Baptist is a fringe Top 25 team that made the NCAA Tournament a season ago and is projected to make it again this year, so starting the season on the road against them was always going to be challenging, especially with Iowa needing to integrate several new young players. Still: getting swept hurts.
That said, Iowa wasn't non-competitive against Dallas Baptist, either. Iowa used 7th inning runs on Friday and Sunday to tie those games at 1-1 heading into the late innings; unfortunately things unraveled from that point in both games. With two outs and runners on the corners in the bottom of the 7th, Iowa first baseman Grant Klenovich wasn't able to handle a throw; that error allowed the game-winning run to score and kept the inning alive -- DBU tacked on three additional insurance runs after that. On Sunday, Iowa again tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the 7th, only to lose the game late. DBU loaded the bases with one out in the 8th inning and squeezed a ball through the infield to plate two runs and give the Patriots a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Saturday's game went differently for Iowa, but no better -- instead of keeping things close for the first two-thirds, Iowa fell behind big early and never recovered. DBU got two singles and a walk (against no outs) to load the bases in the bottom of the first, then DBU's Darick Hall emptied the bases with a grand slam. That put Iowa in a 4-0 hole before they'd even recorded a single out in the game; needless to say, that proved to be pretty problematic. Still, Iowa did scratch back with a run in the third (a Corbin Woods solo HR) and two in the fourth (off three hits and a DBU error) to cut the Patriots' lead to 5-3. Iowa never got any closer than that, though, and DBU added two insurance urance runs in the bottom of the sixth to wrap things up.
While the weekend was an overall disappointment for Iowa, there were a few bright spots. Iowa's starting pitching was overall pretty solid. Tyler Peyton went 6.1 innings on Friday and struck out six and walking one while giving up two hits and two runs (none earned). C.J. Eldred went 4.0 innings on Saturday and struck out three while walking none and giving up two hits and two runs (one earned). Calvin Mathews also went 4.0 innings on Sunday and struck out three while walking three and giving up four hits and 1onerun (earned). Obviously, Iowa needs Eldred and Mathews to go more than four innings (and they need Mathews to hand out fewer walks), but none of the starters got torched by any means.
The bullpen wasn't quite so lucky, although their struggles were exacerbated by defensive struggles (Iowa had four rrors in the three-game series). Ryan Erickson gave up two hits and three runs (none earned) in 0.1 innings of work, while Luke Vandermaten gave up two runs, three hits, and a walk in 1.1 innings and Nick Gallagher gave up five hits, five runs (four earned), three walks, and a wild pitch in 1.1 innings of work.In fact, control was a persistent problem for Iowa's relievers -- they combined for just six strikeouts against eight walks. That said, Iowa's pitchers were able to hold DBU batters to a .222 average overall, which is not too bad.
That .222 average looks downright heavenly in comparison to the measly .144 batting average posted by Iowa's hitters in the series, though. Daniel Morial was probably the standout hitter for Iowa in the series -- he went 2/8 with a home run and 2 RBI and was often able to get on base without getting a hit (he was walked once and somehow managed to get hit by pitches three times in three games). Corbin Woods added another home run for Iowa went 2/9 for the weekend. Only one other Iowa hitter managed to hit least .200, Eric Schenck-Joblinskie, who went 2/10 and hit .200 on the nose. All of Iowa's other hitters combined for seven hits and two runs in the series.
So, no, definitely not the most promising start for Iowa baseball in 2016. The good news is that the schedule lightens up after this -- Iowa likely won't see an opponent as good as DBU until they play Missouri State and Maryland in back-to-back weeks at the end of March. They should have ample opportunities between now and then to get their bats firing, shore up the issues in the bullpen and on defense, and accumulate some wins. Iowa returns to action next weekend in the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte, FL, where they'll be taking on Indiana State, Dartmouth, and Chicago State.