Iowa took their recent hot streak (four wins in five games) and newfound power hitting (four home runs in a 12-3 win over Northern Illinois) up north for a three-game series against Minnesota. Unfortunately, the cool air (and bitter winds) up north halted Iowa's recent good run of form -- they went 1-2 over the weekend, dropping their record to 11-14 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten action. They also dropped to 2-10 in road games this year; the road has been quite unkind to the Hawkeyes this season.
After losing the first game of the series, 4-1, Iowa ended up playing a double-header on Sunday after Saturday's game was postponed due to cold temperatures. Big Ten rules do not permit games to be played when the real-feel (or "feels like") temperature is below 28 degrees. Thanks to some bitterly cold 30 mph winds, the real-feel temperature on Saturday was projected to be in the low 20s. Ah, spring in the Midwest! Iowa went 1-1 in the double header, winning the first game 6-3 and losing the second game 6-3.
MINNESOTA 4, IOWA 1
Iowa took a 1-0 lead in the second inning behind some classic #Hellerball tactics: walk, HBP, sacrifice bunt, RBI single. Unfortunately, Iowa's hitters mustered just two more hits the rest of the game. That won't exactly get it done. Gopher pitcher Matt Fiedler definitely took home man of the match honors in this game -- in addition to producing the winning pitching performance with a 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 6 strikeout outing, he also went 2/4 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI. Iowa got another pretty solid performance from starter C.J. Eldred -- he pitched a complete game (eight innings), giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four. As noted, though, Iowa's bats were MIA in this game. Zach Daniels had two of Iowa's three total hits and got their lone RBI. Iowa batters did walk seven times, though, so they did have baserunners -- hard to do much with those guys on base if you can't get hits, though.
IOWA 6, MINNESOTA 3
Iowa took the first game of Sunday's doubleheader behind a lights-out offensive performance from OF Joel Booker, who went 4/5 with two runs scored and an RBI. He had a double and a home run among his four hits. Freshman OT Robert Neustrom also had a good day, going 1/3 with a double, a run, and an RBI. Daniels kept his good form going with a 1/3 outing and two runs scored. Tyler Peyton gave Iowa five good innings off the mound, scattering five hits, four walks, and just one earned run across his outing. He gave way to Ryan Erickson, who kept Minnesota's bats in check for three innings before giving up a two-run homer to Matt Fiedler in the ninth inning that cut Iowa's lead from 6-1 to 6-3. Josh Martsching relieved Erickson and picked up the save for the Hawkeyes.
MINNESOTA 6, IOWA 3
The Gophers took the rubber match in the series behind an early power explosion: Fiedler (him again!), Austin Althmann, and Connor Schaefbauer hit home runs in three of four at-bats in the first inning, giving the Gophers a 4-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish all day. That bad outing made for another very rough start for Calvin Mathews, who lasted just 2/3 of an inning while giving up four runs on four hits (three home runs). He has had a really lousy start to the season. Nick Gallagher replaced Mathews and generally held down the fort pretty well -- he pitched 6.2 innings for Iowa and gave up just two runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out four. That's not a bad long relief effort; the damage was done in that disastrous first inning.
Iowa's hitters rustled up seven hits on Sunday, led by 3B Mason McCoy, who went 2/3. Booker, Daniels, Neustrom, and C Jimmy Frankos each went 1/4, while OF Austin Guzzo went 1/3 with a run and two RBI. Iowa's best chance to cut into Minnesota's lead (and possibly tie the game) came in the 8th inning when Iowa had runners on second and third with one out after a double-steal by Booker and Daniels. Unfortunately, bad baserunning led to a double play and no runs being scored, leaving Iowa down 5-3. Minnesota added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning and Iowa went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.
NEXT: Iowa starts a six-game homestand with a mid-week game against Milwaukee (11-12) on Tuesday, April 5 at 6 PM CT. Much like last week's mid-week game against Northern Illinois, this looks like another opportunity for Iowa's hitters to have some fun:
Milwaukee will counter with RHP Austin Schulfer. The sophomore is 0-2 with a 14.49 ERA in six appearances (three starts). He has allowed 27 runs (22 earned) on 26 hits over 13 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts to 11 walks. Opponents are hitting .400 against Schulfer.
Iowa will follow up that game with three games at home against Illinois (11-14 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) next weekend, followed by a two-game home series against the Air Force Academy next Tuesday and Wednesday.