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Hellerball: Iowa Baseball defeats Western Illinois, 4-1

The Hawkeyes play “clean” baseball to get back to winning ways against the Leathernecks.

The Daily Iowan - Anthony Vazquez

After dropping a series they shouldn’t have to Northwestern over the weekend, Iowa baseball redeemed themselves Tuesday night with a 4-1 victory over Western Illinois (who wear inverted-color W hats that remind us of Wario) at Duane Banks Field.

It was a solid, if relatively uneventful, win for the Hawkeyes (20-11, 3-3 B1G), but sometimes, that’s exactly what the doctor prescribes for a team who couldn’t hit against Northwestern. The bottom of the order was responsible for the bulk of the production, but the team only managed seven hits to WIU’s 10. The loss gives WIU a 9-21 record for the season. The full box score is here.

The Hawks never trailed in this game, despite the lack of hitting. They got on the board in the bottom of the second inning when sophomore Mitchell Boe hit a sacrifice RBI into center field, driving Austin Guzzo home for the lead, and Matt Hoeg to 3rd. Nothing more came out of it, however, as Chris Whelan filed out to right field on the next at bat.

All was quiet on the scoring front in the third, but in the fourth, the bats came relatively alive. Guzzo made it to base once again, and batted in Ben Norman — who was on 2nd thanks to his 10th stolen base of the year — to take a 2-0 lead. Hoeg hit his own sacrifice fly RBI on his next at bat, upping the score to 3-0 with only one out. Boe was a quick out at the next at bat, thanks to a pop out to third base. Whelan was next in the order and was hit by a pitch (for the second time in the game), and stole second soon after, but McCoy grounded out on his at bat, stranding Guzzo on third and Whelan at second to end the inning.

The Leathernecks hinted at a comeback in the top of the fifth, getting four hits and and a run off of relief pitcher Grant Judkins. WIU’s lone run came from a Roman Visintine RBI single with two outs. The Leathernecks didn’t quit however, and looked like they could tie the game after Visintine was hit to second. A single on the next batter had Visitintine running for home plate, but a clutch throw from sophomore Robert Neustrom caught him at the plate to end the inning.

The Hawks made up for the run in the 6th. Junior Tyler Copley’s hot streak continued with a double down left field to start off the inning, and got to third on the ensuing Guzzo groundout, and was batted in by Hoeg for the 4-1 score that ended up being the final.

On the pitching front, Elijah Wood got the start on the mound for Iowa, the first of his career. It was a solid debut; he pitched three scoreless innings, and allowed only two hits before being replaced. Senior Drake Robinson received the victory, giving him a 2-2 record on the year, and sophomore Shane Ritter earned his third save of the season with a strong performance in the ninth.

“It was a pitching, defense, night,” head coach Rick Heller said. “We played clean baseball.” More quotes in the video below.

On Deck

Up next, the Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln for a three-game series against Nebraska at...Hawks Field (insert thinking-face emoji here). First pitch is set for Friday night at 6:35 p.m. CT, followed by a 6:05 p.m. first pitch on Saturday, and a 2:05 p.m. finisher on Sunday afternoon that will be televised on BTN.

The Cornhuskers have the same 20 wins as the Hawkeyes, but a better conference record at 4-1-1 (the tie was a 1-1 11 inning game against Indiana a couple weeks ago). They’re currently in second place in the conference behind Minnesota. They’ll come into the series against the Hawkeyes having won 9 of their last 11 (10 if you count the aforementioned tie as win).

Matt Waldron has 45 hits on the season for the Huskers, along with two homers and a .298 batting average. They’re coming off a 6-1 win against Kansas State on Tuesday night. From my research, it seems like Nebraska is a team with some potentially deadly bats that can score a lot of runs, but also seem to struggle on defense.

To keep Max’s new tradition alive:

Cornhusker home runs: 11

Jake Adams home runs: 13

Nick Gallagher (4-1, 2.15 ERA) is slated to start for the Hawks Friday night, and Cole McDonald (2-2, 5.34 ERA) will most likely take the mound Saturday. For Nebraska, expect to see junior Jake Hohensee pitching Friday, and senior Derek Burkamper is the usual Saturday starter.

There’s no doubt that a couple wins against the Huskers would be beneficial. Not only would it provide a nice jump in the standings, but the RPI boost would be big for the team’s quest to return to the NCAA Regionals.