Never. Say. Die.
Through eight innings, Iowa mustered just two hits and no runs against Ohio State's starting pitcher, John Havrid, who had Iowa's bats completely stymied. Iowa went into their final set of at-bats down 4-0... and then the magic hit. Tyler Peyton led off the inning with a single after fouling off four pitches in the at-bat. Nick Roscetti followed up Peyton's hit with a single of his own and Joel Booker added a third-straight single to load the bases with no outs. Mason McCoy drilled a single through the middle of the infield to score Iowa's first run and keep the bases loaded. Suddenly the game was 4-1 and hope was stirring.
Hope took a hit in the next at-bat, though, as Daniel Aaron Moriel grounded into a double play. Still, another run (Roscetti) scored and Iowa still had a runner on third (Booker). 4-2. Austin Guzzo kept the comeback churning with another single up the middle to make it 4-3.
Jimmy Frankos came up next to try and pull off some late game heroics as a pinch hitter. Frankos was Iowa's starting catcher for most of the season, but he suffered a serious hamstring injury against Michigan State a few weeks ago and hasn't really been able to play. Even if he was able to get a hit, he'd need a pinch-runner if it wasn't a home run because he can't run at all right now. That proved to be a moot point, though, because Frankos got plunked on the knee to give Iowa runners on first (Guzzo) and second (Corbin Woods, pinch-running for Frankos).
Enter: RS JR Devin Pickett, a reserve outfielder who's played so sparingly in his first three seasons at Iowa that he didn't have a single career RBI to his name. Not any more. Pickett looped a single into the outfield that scored Guzzo and suddenly the game that only thirty minutes earlier had seemed out of reach was tied up at 4-4.
Iowa's ninth-inning rally ended there -- Robert Neustrom struck out on three pitches to end the inning for Iowa with two runners in scoring position -- but the comeback wasn't over yet. After a nervy top half of the 10th inning when Ohio State managed to get two men on with a single and a walk before Iowa reliever Josh Martsching got out of the jam with a fly ball and a pretty strikeout, Iowa got back to work in the bottom of the 10th. Lead-off hitter Tyler Peyton drew a four-pitch walk. Roscetti reached on a fielder's choice on a bunt after the pitcher threw wildly on an attempt to get the runner at second. Booker got plunked on the very next pitch to load the bases for Iowa with no outs. Mason McCoy, the man who drove in Iowa's first run in the ninth-inning rally, didn't hesitate and smashed a deep fly ball that easily scored Peyton.
5-4. Game over. WINNER WINNER. Iowa's thrilling run in the Big Ten Tournament continues -- they'll play the winner of the Indiana-Maryland game (tonight on BTN) at 9 AM CT tomorrow (Saturday).
Tyler Peyton got the start for Iowa and while he wasn't as razor-sharp as he'd been in his previous performances -- he entered the game on a 23-inning scoreless streak, after all -- he still pitched well for Iowa. He went seven innings and stuck out five, giving up five hits and three earned runs in the process (although one of them, as it turns out, shouldn't have counted). If the offense had given him any help in the first eight innings, that might have been enough for Iowa to get the job done earlier for the Hawkeyes. But then we would have been spared the thrilling drama of a walk-off win -- Iowa's second in as many years over the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament! -- and that wouldn't have been quite as much fun. Not a bad way for Rick Heller to pick up his 100th win at Iowa, I'd say.
Peyton and McCoy led Iowa with two hits apiece -- Peyton went 2/4 with a triple and a walk and scored two runs, including the first and last runs of Iowa's comeback and McCoy went 2/5 and knocked in the first and last runs of Iowa's comeback. Roscetti and Booker (who hopefully won't have any lingering effects from the awkward-looking HBP he took in this game) each had a hit and a run and Moriel and Guzzo added hits. And of course Pickett had one of the most magical hits of all, knocking in the tying run for Iowa -- the first RBI of his CAREER -- in the bottom of the ninth. Heroes abounded for the Hawkeyes on Friday. I can't wait to see what they might have in store for us tomorrow.