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Hellerball: Bats Come Alive as Iowa Baseball Takes 2 of 3 at Hoover Classic

Margaret Kispert-The Daily Iowan

After a weekend where it was clear that Iowa needed to get its bats on track if it wanted to have any success, the bats came through in a big way down in Hoover, AL in the second weekend of the young season. The Iowa offense exploded for 26 runs in their three game stint in Hoover against Alabama State and Morehead State, and the pitching wasn’t so bad either. How did it all happen? Let’s take a look.

Game 1: Iowa 9, Alabama State 2 (Box Score)

Getting off on the right foot this weekend! This was probably the most complete game for the Hawkeyes this weekend, as they tallied 15 hits on their way to nine runs against a pitcher who has had pretty good success at what was a NCAA Regional Team in 2016. Not only did the bats come alive, but the pitching was great while the defense committed no errors for just the second time in five games.

In a 2-0 hole in the third inning, the Hawkeyes clawed their way back into the game by getting the first five batters on base - Tyler Cropley and Mason McCoy both drew walks and Robert Neustrom singled to left field to load the bases. Jake Adams then smacked a single to left to score a run, Matt Hoeg drew a walk to force in a run, and Austin Guzzo drove in a run on a groundout. After a lot of the offense in the first four games of the season was predicated on errors and the long ball, it’s great to see these guys score a few runs with some patience at the plate and moderate contact. All of this (and a little more) against Tyler Howe, who went 10-3 last year with a 1.69 ERA. That’s what you like to see.

With that in mind, the long ball RULES (chicks dig it for a reason), and Iowa still is going to hit a bunch of them this season. Guzzo and Adams both hit one over the fence in this one, for their first and second of the season, respectively. Adams’ home run sounds like it went a loooooong way, and he looks poised to put together a monster senior season for the Hawks this year.

Ben Norman and Cropley also each hit an RBI single in this one. Five different Hawks tallied at least one RBI and it’s great to see the production spread throughout the lineup.

I can’t forget to talk about the pitching! As I noted above, the pitching was stellar, led by starter Nick Gallagher who went seven innings while surrendering two early runs to the Hornets. It’s good to see that he was able to shake that off and settle in on his way to the victory. Ryan Erickson also pitched two shutout innings in relief to secure the victory.

Game 2: Alabama State 4, Iowa 3 (Box Score)

The middle game was the blemish on the weekend, and the bullpen certainly did all it could to keep the Hawkeyes in this game after Cole McDonald gave up four runs in three innings of work in his first career weekend start. McDonald was making a spot start for Cole Eldred, who was sidelined with a sore forearm, per Zach Mackey.

All-in-all, McDonald did a decent job of limiting the damage in his outing, as he stranded two runners in the third inning. He was taken deep in the second by Gustavo Rios for two runs and gave up a 2-run single to Cage Cox in the third, so most of the damage came off two pitches. It’s not the start you’d like, ideally, but it could’ve been worse.

The bullpen did a fantastic job in this one, though, giving up one hit over six innings. Nick Nelsen had a particularly great outing, striking out a pair over four innings and throwing only 31 pitches.

The Hawkeyes just simply couldn’t do enough at the plate to erase the deficit in this one. Robert Neustrom hit his first home run of the season in the third inning, Mason McCoy hit an RBI double in the fifth, and Jake Adams hit an RBI single in the seventh, but Iowa just wasn’t able to put together more to tie it up. The Hawks left eight runners on base, which definitely doesn’t help. Credit goes to Alabama State starter Terrell McCall, who pitched scattered the three Hawkeye runs over his seven innings of work.

If a 4-3 loss is the bad game of the weekend, that’s honestly not so bad. There were a lot of positives to take out of this one and not a whole lot of negatives.

Game 3: Iowa 14, Morehead State 7 (Box Score)

Football score! This one was probably a fun one to watch, as it was a high scoring and relatively close affair until the Hawkeyes finally pulled away in the seventh inning. The pitching wasn’t stellar in this one, obviously, but when your offense is throwing 14 runs on the board, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

We’ll start with the pitching. Drake Robison made his first career start and pitched a decent game. He surrendered three runs in the first inning, but settled down and followed that with three scoreless innings of work. It wasn’t a great start, but you like to see that he was able to bounce back and keep things close for the Hawks in his inaugural start. He was hit around a bit, as he gave up seven hits, but four of those came in the first. It’s also good to see that although he loaded the bases up in the fourth, he was able to get out of the jam without giving up anymore runs.

The bullpen was a mixed bag as well, as they allowed a combined four runs (three earned) over their five innings of work. Shane Ritter and Sammy Lizarraga both gave up two runs over one inning while also giving up two hits apiece. Zach Daniels was the lone bright spot for the staff on the day, as he gave up two hits over three innings and was the only Iowa pitcher not to let any Eagles cross the plate.

But let’s talk about the bats because that’s the fun part of this game for Iowa, right? The Hawks lit up every pitcher they saw on the day, scoring at least three runs against all four Morehead State pitchers. It didn’t matter what the Eagles threw at them, the Hawks were locked in at the plate and they needed to be to pick up the pitching staff.

If you want to see how the Hawks scored all their runs in this one, I recommend looking at the box score because this writeup could go another 1,000 words if I talk about every single time they scored in this one. I’ll touch on some key notes at the plate instead:

  • Mason McCoy had himself a day, going 2-for-4 at the plate and driving in four runs. The shortstop knocked in three with a bases clearing double in the second.
  • Two other Hawkeyes had a multi-hit game - Chris Whelan went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and Matt Hoeg went 2-for-5, scoring three runs.
  • Outside the three aforementioned Hawkeyes, the rest of the lineup had a measly three hits. The Iowa lineup as a whole did draw nine walks in this one, which is encouraging.
  • Iowa took advantage of Morehead State miscues in this one, scoring three runs off Eagles’ errors.

All-in-all, it wasn’t a pretty game, but a win is a win. You’ll take it 10 times out of 10. The bats picked up their teammates on the mound. Insert other cliches here.

On Deck

Another surprise baseball game! The Hawkeyes will be back at Duane Banks Field on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to take on Cornell College at 3pm.

The Rams have yet to play a game in 2017, but went 22-16 in 2016.