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Hellerball: Iowa Baseball Opens Conference Play With Series Victory Against Purdue

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Eighth inning heroics abound!

Anthony Vazquez - The Daily Iowan

Despite the rain’s every attempt to ruin the mood around Duane Banks Field this weekend, the Hawkeyes were able to bring the good vibes as they took two out of three against the Boilermakers in their first conference series of the season.

Every game of the series was a tight contest between what appears to be two pretty evenly matched teams - each game was decided in the eighth inning, with Purdue taking the first game of the series and Iowa coming out victorious in the latter two. The Hawkeyes were able to improve their record to 13-9 on the season and are now 2-1 in conference play. Let’s talk about how they got there this weekend.

Game 1: Purdue 2, Iowa 0 (Box Score)

The lone loss of the weekend stings a bit, as Iowa wasted some really good pitching when they unable to push any runs across the plate in the Friday matchup.

Nick Gallagher made his triumphant return to the rotation after missing a start due to an injury, pitching five innings of scoreless baseball and giving up five hits. He was pulled after only 75 pitches, which one can assume was a precautionary move by Heller. The bullpen faired pretty well for the most part as well, with Josh Martsching and Nick Nelsen combining for three innings of no-hit ball.

The Hawks, however, ran into trouble in the eighth. Fresh off an hour rain delay, Drake Robison returned to the game and promptly gave up an RBI triple and RBI double to Nick Dalesandro and Jacson McGowin, which was a large enough hole that Iowa would be unable to climb out of it. One could question all day whether or not Robison should have returned to the game following a rain delay, but it happened and that’s that.

The offense was kept in check by Purdue pitching all day - the Hawks squandered just eight hits and drew four walks, stranding 10 baserunners on the evening. Tyler Cropley was the only Hawkeye who had a notable day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a triple. You’d like to see a bit more from the offense, particularly with runners on base, but Purdue’s staff was rolling on this particular day.

Game 2: Iowa 5, Purdue 1 (Box Score)

This one? The result was a lot better. The pitching was once again great for the Hawks in game two, but the bats contributed to the effort in this one as they scored four runs in the eighth to take the middle game of the series.

Ryan Erikson, who has been tabbed as Iowa’s Saturday starter, pitched 423 innings, surrendering six hits and one run after waiting out a rain delay that kept the game from starting for an hour after its scheduled start time. His performance was supplemented by Zach Daniels, who improved his record to 4-1 on the year by pitching 323 innings of scoreless ball, and Shane Ritter, who recorded a two out save by getting out of Daniels’ bases loaded jam in the ninth. All-in-all, a great performance by the three pitchers for the Hawks.

At the plate, Iowa struggled to get their many baserunners across the plate early, but broke through in the eighth to tally four runs. Jake Adams started the scoring in the eighth by chasing home Mason McCoy with an RBI double, and he himself was chased home by Justin Jenkins’ RBI single. Pinch hitter Luke Farley hit an RBI double later in the inning and was followed by a sac-fly by Matt Hoeg, which would end the scoring in the game.

Iowa tallied 15 hits in this one, so you’d have liked to ideally seen a few more runs cross the plate, but you can’t argue with the dub.

Game 3: Iowa 7, Purdue 2 (Box Score)

Another game, another eighth inning rally to decide the game! Tied 2-2 in the eighth, the Hawkeyes blasted the Boilermakers’ bullpen to the tune of five runs to take control of what was another tightly contested ballgame.

RBI singles were the theme in the eighth inning of this one, as Iowa recorded three of them to bust this game wide open. Robert Neustrom hit an RBI single to kick things off in the inning, while Ben Norman and Grant Judkins each knocked in two runs with singles of their own.

Iowa had another solid day on the bump, with this one started by Cole McDonald. McDonald gave up a run in 223 innings, but was forced to leave the game when he was struck by a comebacker in the third. By all accounts, he seemed to be alright, but Heller didn’t want to take any chances and removed him from the game immediately.

Luckily the Hawkeye bullpen was pretty fresh as they were relied upon to finish the game, and they did so admirably. Kyle Shimp was credited with his second victory of the season after he pitched two shutout innings, while Ritter and Martsching each pitched a scoreless inning of their own.

Not a bad way to start conference play! This is the fourth consecutive season that the Hawks have won the first series of conference play, which is an excellent trend. Hopefully they can build on that and carry that success with them the rest of the way this season.

By the way, who do they play next?

On Deck

The Hawkeyes host Grand View University for a mid-week game this week! The Vikings are 10-8 on the year, but haven’t exactly played anyone of note thus far.

Player stats aren’t readily available on their team site (I didn’t look very hard, but the site isn’t very well made and I didn’t want to stick around much longer), but I did find an interesting note on there. Their head coach Lou Yacinich is in his 43rd year at the helm of the Grand View program. 43 years! He’s guided the Vikings to a record of 1,125-794 in his 42+ years as coach, which is pretty impressive if you ask me. His son, who shares his namesake, has also been the school’s softball coach for 15 years.

What does any of that have to do with the game on Wednesday? Not much at all! There’s just not a whole lot to build upon for this matchup, one that Iowa should probably win. Iowa likely has the superior talent and should be able to beat their NAIA opponent this week.

The game is on Wednesday at 4:05pm CT, and will be available to stream on BTN Plus.