Iowa baseball recorded multiple wins over Michigan State in their three-game series in their home finale Iowa City this weekend. Wins! As in plural -- not singular! After losing the first game of the series, 5-1, on Friday, Iowa rebounded to take the weekend games, 3-1 and 5-1, respectively. The wins improved Iowa to 10-11 in the Big Ten and 24-24 overall. Iowa last won two games in a row at the end of April, beating Michigan 8-3 on April 24 and beating Grand View 3-0 on April 26. They last won two games in a row over Big Ten competition at the end of March, when they took the first two games of the series from Maryland, 8-1 and 4-1. Iowa hadn't won two games in a Big Ten series, period, since taking two of three from Illinois back in April.
These wins keep Iowa in the race to make the Big Ten Tournament, although at 10-11 they're tied with Illinois for 9th place. That's not a great spot to be in since only the top eight teams in the league make the Big Ten Tournament. It's great that Iowa won two games over Sparty this weekend -- but they're going to need to keep the wins coming next week against Penn State if they want to make it back to the Big Ten Tournament. But we'll break that down tomorrow. For now, let's recap the series against Michigan State.
Game One: Michigan State 5, Iowa 1
The series started on a sour note as Iowa fell short against Sparty in the opener, 5-1. MSU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the first two innings and they never looked back -- they stretched it to 5-0 after five innings and Iowa didn't get on the board at all until the bottom of the eighth inning when Mason McCoy scored on an RBI single from Robert Neustrom. The game started on an ominous note when Illinois leadoff hitter Brandon Hughes swatted a home run to get things started. C.J. Eldred last six innings for Iowa and struck out five, but he also gave up seven hits and five runs and walked two. He's definitely struggled more over the last month or so.
Iowa's bats were a little bit better -- they combined for seven hits and drew four walks off MSU pitchers. Unfortunately, they weren't able to string those hits or walks into runs until the eighth. Neustrom earned player of the game honors with his 3/4 outing at the plate and knocking in Iowa's only run of the game. Eric Schenck-Joblinkse went 2/3, while Iowa's usual best hitters -- Peyton, Roscetti, and Booker -- combined to go 0/12 at the plate. That's a problem.
Game Two: Iowa 3, Michigan State 1
Iowa turned things around in the second game of the series behind a very strong outing from Tyler Peyton, who seems to finally be healthy and is starting to produce performances on the mound like the ones that carried Iowa to the NCAA Tournament last year. He went seven innings, scattering three hits and three walks and giving up zero runs. He only struck out two, but he did an excellent job of generating MSU outs. Nick Allgeyer added a scoreless inning in relief, while Josh Martsching gave up a run in the top of the ninth, but still locked up a save and preserved Iowa's win.
At the dish Schneck-Joblinske had another good game, going 2/4 with a two-run homer and three RBI total. Joel Booker bounced back with a pair of doubles in a 2/3 outing, while Nick Roscetti went 1/4. Mason McCoy and Grant Klenovich also added hits for the Hawkeyes.
Highlights of Saturday's 3-1 win! See you at Banks Field for Sunday's game at 1:05, Senior Day festivities prior. https://t.co/Du0iaQMLFw— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 15, 2016
Game Three: Iowa 5, Michigan State 1
Iowa jumped on the Spartans from the start in the series rubber match, plating three runs in the bottom of the first. Iowa only had two hits in the inning -- one from Peyton and one from Roscetti -- but they took full advantage of sloppy play from the MSU defense. All three Iowa runs were unearned and scored off throwing errors (three total) by the sloppy Spartans. Roscetti scored off his own single -- he took three bases after that and made it all the way back to home thanks to a terrible error by MSU (which you can see in the highlights below). Hey, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right?
Iowa added two more runs in the fifth with three hits, including a Mason McCoy single that scored Booker and Daniel Aaron Moriel. Three Iowa batters recorded two hits in the game -- Peyton went 2/4 with a run scored, while Booker and Moriel each went 2/3 and record three of Iowa's other four runs. McCoy went 1/4 and had the only two RBI of the day for Iowa.
Iowa also got another good effort on the mound. Senior Calvin Mathews, making his final home start for Iowa, pushed through the pain that's plagued his senior season (as noted in Friday's preview for the series) and gave Iowa a solid outing. It was brief -- just 3.2 innings, but he gave up just one hit and one walk and, conceded zero runs. Given the pain he's dealing with, 3.2 innings might be the most that Mathews can give Iowa now, but he did an excellent job of keeping MSU off the scoreboard, which is not something we've been able to say about many of his previous starts this year. Ryan Erickson replaced Mathews and did well, lasting four innings and giving up just one run in that span. Zach Daniels closed things out with 1.1 innings of scoreless work to pick up the save, which included getting out of a (partially self-inflicted) bases loaded jam in the top of the eighth.
This win also featured a WILD defensive play involving Erickson (or Erickson's hip, at least) and Mason McCoy.
You earned yourself a web gem -- and the #3 spot in SportsCenter's Top 10 plays rundown (seen in the highlights below) -- with that effort, Mr. McCoy.
ICYMI: Iowa made ESPN's Top Plays Sunday. That and more from a 5-1 win in the home finale: https://t.co/32DfJlZXM7— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 16, 2016
NEXT: Iowa hits the road for a game against Western Illinois (14-32 overall, 6-9 home) in Macomb, IL on Tuesday (11 AM CT), then heads farther east for a crucial series with Penn State in Happy Valley to wrap up the season (May 19-21).