Iowa is currently in the midst of a six-game homestand, the perfect opportunity for the Hawkeyes to claw their way back from a lousy start to the season. They won a laugher over Milwaukee (9-1) to start the homestand and built on that with a weekend series over Illinois where they took two of three games against their border rival. With the series win, Iowa's record improves to 14-15 overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play (tied for 7th).
For the second straight weekend, weather complicated the schedule and forced some changes. Friday's game was postponed due to cold temperatures and high winds, leading to a doubleheader on Saturday and the regular game on Sunday.
Game One: Iowa 4, Illinois 3 (10 innings)
#Hellerball lives! Iowa opened a 3-0 lead in the first game of the doubleheader with a first inning home run from Nick Roscetti (his third of the year) and a pair of runs in the third inning. Unfortunately, Iowa's offense decided to take an afternoon nap after that, failing to score any further runs in the next six innings. Illinois grabbed two runs in the fourth inning off of four hits, although they left three men on base. That was a recurrent problem for Illinois in the game, too -- they left two on base in the 7th and left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth as well. They did manage to score the tying run in that inning, though. Fortunately, Iowa was able to get the offense clicking in the bottom of the 10th inning -- Joel Booker led off the inning with a double and moved to third base after a Zach Daniels groundout. Booker then scored the winning run on a safety squeeze sacrifice bunt. Hawkeyes win! Hawkeyes win!
C.J. Eldred had another solid outing for Iowa, going seven innings and giving up two runs on six hits and a walk. He's been in fine form for a while now. Luke Vandermaten pitched well in relief of Eldred in the eighth, but struggled and gave up the game-tying run when he came back in for the ninth inning. Tyler Radtke finished out the game with 1.2 innings of one-hit work. Frankos knocked in the game-winner and went 1/2 on the day, but Iowa's best hitters were against Roscetti (2/4 with a run scored an RBI and the aforementioned homer) and Booker (2/5 with two runs scored and a double).
Check out the walk-off win in Game 1 of today's doubleheader! (Now back to Game 2 updates) https://t.co/vM0CkEuK66— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 9, 2016
Game Two: Illinois 10, Iowa 4
Unfortunately, Iowa got off to a lousy start in the second game of the doubleheader and never recovered. Illinois scored a pair of runs in the first off a Jason Goldstein two-run homer and followed that up with three runs in the second inning off a Trent Hammond two-run homer and a Michael Hurwitz double. A 5-0 lead was rough, but the game really got out of hand when Doran Turchin blasted a grand slam in the fifth inning to give Illinois a 9-2 lead. At fault for all those runs was Tyler Peyton, who went five innings and gave up nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits and two walks. Peyton had been pitching better lately, but this game was definitely a step back for him.
Iowa had some success against Illinois' starting pitcher, Doug Hayes, knocking eleven hits and grabbing two walks off him in 5.2 innings of work. But they weren't able to turn those hits into runs -- they tagged him for just four runs and had 12 men left on base for the game. With a more efficient offensive performance, perhaps Iowa could have kept up with Illinois' offensive outburst.
Booker (2/5, one run, one RBI) and Roscetti (2/5) had solid games, but much of Iowa's offensive success came at the bottom of the lineup, where Grant Klenovich went 3/4 with a run scored, John Barrett went 2/4, and Daniel Aaron Moriel went 2/5 with a run scored, two RBI, and a solo home run.
Game Three: Iowa 4, Illinois 3
Fortunately, Iowa got back on track in the third game of the season on Sunday, jumping out to another lead then hanging on through some nervy moments late. Illinois got on the board first with a run in the top of the first, but Iowa answered with a Joel Booker sacrifice fly in the third inning. Iowa jumped out to a 4-1 lead off a three-run Booker homer in the fifth inning. Illinois clawed back runs in the seventh and eighth innings to make things tense and threatened in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded before Iowa finally closed things out. Remember how men left on base was an issue for Iowa in Game Two? Well, it was a huge problem for Illinois in this game -- they left 12 batters stranded over the course of nine innings, including seven stranded runners over the final three innings.
Nick Gallagher got the start for Iowa and did pretty well, scattering four hits, two walks, and a run over five innings of work. Given some of Iowa's starting pitchers have had this year, that was a pretty solid outing. Ryan Erickson struggled in relief of Gallagher -- he gave up two runs on a hit and three walks in his two innings of work. Walks in general were a problem for the Iowa staff -- Iowa's pitchers gave up just five hits all game, but they handed out eight free passes to give Illinois plenty of baserunners. (They also hit two Illini batters so, yeah, control was a bit of a problem.)
Joel Booker was certainly the man of the match for Iowa with a 1/3 performance with one run scored, all four Iowa RBI in the game, and a huge three-run home run. Tyler Peyton and Eric Schenck-Joblinske each went 1/3 with a run scored and Mason McCoy went 2/3 with a run scored as well.
Sunday's baseball highlights, including Booker's blast! https://t.co/B823LA0CFa— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 11, 2016
After the win, Iowa players also decided to perform their own post-game interview of sorts:
NEXT: Iowa's homestand continues with two games against the Air Force Academy (Tuesday at 6 PM CT, Wednesday at 6 PM CT). Air Force info (18-8, RPI 89, currently on 5-game winning streak). If Iowa is able to take both games from Air Force, they could get above .500 for the first time all season.