The good news is that Iowa outscored Ohio State 12-9 in their three-game series over the weekend. The bad news is that all 12 of Iowa's runs came in one game and they lost the series, two games to one. Iowa was shutout not once, but twice by the Buckeyes this weekend -- the first times they've been shutout all season. In fact, it was the first time Iowa has been shut out in a game since a 7-0 loss to Bradley in March 2014. Very bad timing for that streak to end, unfortunately. This was also the fourth-straight three-game series in which Iowa has gone 1-2; "one step forward, two steps back" is a very bad slogan for a season, as it turns out.
The losses dropped Iowa to 8-10 in the Big Ten, which places them in 10th place in the league standings.
The bottom of the Big Ten is still incredibly bunched up -- Ohio State, Maryland, and Penn State occupy the 6-8 spots in the standings and have identical 10-8 conference records -- so Iowa isn't completely out of the frame yet. They're two games back and Penn State especially is floundering badly in the season's closing stretch (they've lost four in a row, although their most recent three-game sweep came against TCU in non-conference action). But Iowa absolutely needs to string some wins together to have any chance of sneaking into the Big Ten Tournament. Winning one of three games every weekend simply isn't going to cut it.
Game One: Ohio State 6, Iowa 0
Ohio State's Tanner Tully pitched seven shutout innings against Iowa on Friday, holding them to four hits and giving up three walks while striking out four batters. Iowa's best chance to score came in the fifth inning after they loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single; unfortunately that scoring chance ended on a fielder's choice. As you'd expect, the hitting stats for Iowa were pretty grim in that one -- Jimmy Frankos went 2/4, but Nick Roscetti, Joel Booker, and Robert Neustrom got Iowa's only other hits in the game, though Tyler Peyton did draw a pair of walks.
C.J. Eldred struggled on the mound, giving up nine hits and five runs in four innings, while striking out just one batter and walking three. Jared Mandel replaced Eldred and limited the damage -- just two hits and one run in his four innings of work -- but far too much damage had already been done.
Game Two: Iowa 12, Ohio State 0
Iowa's bats rebounded in a big way in Saturday's second game of the series, though, as Iowa hitters blasted Ohio State for 12 runs on 20 (!) hits. That may have been just about the fewest runs they could have scored, too, given that they left 11 men on base in the game. Iowa chased OSU starter John Havird from the game after 5.2 innings pitched, having pelted him for 10 hits and six runs. Every Iowa hitter except pitcher Nick Allgeyer got a hit, with Joel Booker's monster day pacing the Iowa attack -- 3/4 with a double, two runs scored, and four RBI. Even the one at-bat where he didn't get a hit was productive as he recorded an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Mason McCoy and Nick Roscetti each had two-hit, two-RBI days for the Hawkeyes, while unheralded Mitchell Boe ripped off a 3/5 performance with three runs scored and an RBI. Iowa scored three runs off four hits in the first inning and never looked back from there.
As good as the hitting was for Iowa in this game, though, they really wouldn't have needed all that much from their bats with the way the pitching handled the Buckeye lineup. Tyler Peyton got the start and gave us a long glimpse of the pitcher who helped Iowa to their excellent season a year ago -- 7 IP, two hits, two walks, three strikeouts, no walks. Allgeyer came on in relief and pitched two shutout innings, striking out three while giving up no hits or walks.
Watch some of the highlights from Saturday's 12-0 win at OSU. The Hawkeyes are back in action today at 12:05 (CT). https://t.co/4A3iEE3e9Z— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 8, 2016
Game Three: Ohio State 3, Iowa 0
Unfortunately, things went sour again for the Iowa bats in Sunday's series rubber match. Unlike Friday night's shutout, Iowa got hits (10) and drew walks (4), but they couldn't do anything with those baserunners. Iowa left 11 men on base for the game. Boe followed up his three-hit performance Saturday with a 2/4 outing on Sunday and Austin Guzzo and Tyler Peyton were good at the plate for the Hawks (2/3 and 3/5, respectively), but Iowa simply wasn't able to get any timely hits with men on base. Nick Roscetti, usually one of Iowa's best hitters, had an especially rough game, going 0/4 with a walk and four strikeouts.
Unfortunately, that offensive no-show wasted what was a pretty decent outing from the Iowa pitching staff. Nick Gallagher got the start for Iowa and struggled at first, giving up two walks to start off the game and then giving up a double and a single back to give Ohio State an early 3-0 lead. Gallagher settled down after that, although he lasted just 2.1 innings total on Sunday. Luke Vandermaten, Ryan Erickson, and Josh Martsching tag teamed the remainder of the game for Iowa and held OSU to three hits and no runs, but OSU didn't need any with Iowa's bats unable to do any damage.
NEXT: No mid-week action for the Hawkeyes this week, so they'll have plenty of time to rest and prepare for next weekend's home series against Michigan State (31-12 overall, 11-6 Big Ten), which is also the home finale for Iowa. Obviously, that's a very critical series for Iowa -- but they all are at this point.