After dropping a series to Big Ten bottom dwellers Northwestern last week, the Hawkeyes have regained their footing after taking two of three in Lincoln this past weekend. This is a great momentum builder for the Hawks, as Nebraska came into the series having won 10 of their previous 12 games and a 5-1-1 mark in conference play. Nebraska fans might also be pretty shook about it, if you care to wander over to their SB Nation site.
The Hawkeyes are now 22-12 overall and 5-4 in conference play, which finds them fifth in the Big Ten standings. Maybe most importantly in terms of momentum, Iowa improved their road record to 5-8 by the end of this series - it’s not all that impressive, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Here’s your obligatory reminder that Jake Adams is a monster (although you know damn well we’re going to talk about him a lot more in the coming paragraphs):
.@UIBaseball's Jake Adams leads the B1G in home runs (14), slugging % (.737) and total bases (101); 2nd in RBIs (46); 4th in BA (.358).— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) April 17, 2017
And with that, let’s talk about the series at Nebraska before we briefly cover Iowa’s upcoming trip to Peoria, IL.
Game 1: Iowa 7, Nebraska 6 - 10 inn. (Box Score)
The Hawks lived and died by the home run in this contest, blasting three long balls to help propel them to an extra inning victory in the first of the three game set. It’s the best way to tear out the collective hearts from the chests of a rival, in my opinion.
Nick Gallagher didn’t have his best start of the year by any means, giving up five runs (three earned) in just 31⁄3 innings of work. He just didn’t have anything going against the Cornhuskers as he walked five batters and gave up four hits, but he also wasn’t helped by a Mason McCoy error in Nebraska’s four-run effort in the fourth inning. On the flip side, Zach Daniels, Nick Nelsen, and Josh Martsching all had pretty stellar days, giving up a combined one run in their 6+ innings of work.
At the plate, we already dove into the power display the Hawks treated the folks in Lincoln to. Nebraska STINKS at hitting home runs, and Iowa is great at it, and they showed that greatness in this game. Jake Adams (who else?) got the Hawks going with a solo homer in the first, Chris Whelan hit a two-run homer in the third, and Tyler Cropley continued his torrid streak at the plate with another home run, this one being a game-tying three-run shot in the sixth, that helped Iowa send it into extras. In the 10th, Mitchell Boe finished things off with an RBI single to left, scoring Cropley.
All-in-all, a great team effort from the Hawks in this one. The starting pitching wasn’t there, but it didn’t matter - the rest of the team was able to pick Gallagher up on a bad day. That’s what you like to see from your teammates when you’re struggling. Great team win.
Game 2: Iowa 5, Nebraska 3 (Box Score)
This one was an entirely different ballgame. The pitching was great in this one and Iowa didn’t hit a single home run on their way to a series-clinching victory against the Cornhuskers.
Ryan Erickson received the nod from Rick Heller in this one, and he had one of his strongest starts of the year, if not the strongest. The senior earned his first win of the year as he went 6+ innings, yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out five. Shane Ritter recorded his fourth save of the year, pitching three innings of scoreless baseball, although he did let an inherited runner score in the seventh.
At the plate, the Hawkeyes did their damage with a handful of RBI base hits in the middle game. Iowa took an early lead in the fourth inning when Austin Guzzo and Matt Hoeg hit back-to-back RBI singles, chasing home Robert Neustrom and Ben Norman. The Hawkeyes would give up the lead in the sixth, but the bats were quick to respond in the seventh inning when Adams and Neustrom, who hit two doubles apiece, hit back-to-back RBI doubles to right to regain a lead that the Hawkeyes wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the evening.
Game 3: Nebraska 8, Iowa 6 (Box Score)
This is the game that the Iowa bullpen would like to have back. The pitching wasn’t great from anyone in the series finale, but it was there for the taking if the Hawkeyes were able to close it out late.
Down a run in the eighth, Iowa had the bases loaded and two outs, when Matt Hoeg knocked in two runs with a single to give Iowa the late lead. The bullpen faltered, however, as two of Iowa’s strongest relievers in Martsching and Daniels were unable to keep Nebraska off the scoreboard. The Hawkeyes were forced to use three different relievers in the ill-fated eighth, with each of them recording just one out apiece while the Cornhuskers scored three runs in the inning.
There was definitely potential for a sweep, but the pitching staff just wasn’t able to get it done here, as each pitcher who entered the game was at least semi-responsible for a run - all Iowa pitchers but Daniels were charged at least one run, while Daniels let an inherited runner score in his appearance.
The Hawkeyes will head to Peoria, IL, to take on Bradley on Wednesday at 7pm. These two teams already squared off once this season, as Iowa thumped the Braves by a score of 12-1 at Duane Banks Field. You may recall this being the game where both Tyler Cropley and Robert Neustrom hit grand slams and all the scoring was done by the third inning. Let’s hope for more of the same in this one, yeah?
The last time these teams played, Bradley looked like a pretty average squad, and not much has changed for them as the season has progressed. The Braves come into this midweek game with a record of 15-18 and have beaten up on some rather unspectacular teams as of late, including Wichita State, Milwaukee, and SIU Edwardsville. They also lost to Northwestern just a week ago, so maybe they have something in common with Iowa after all?
The Braves actually hit for some power, as they have 33 home runs on the year. This means that for the first time in a while, the Hawkeyes will be playing a team that collectively has more home runs than Jake Adams (14). They even have more home runs than Iowa, who has collectively hit 31. That’s not any fun.
Anyway, this would be a great way to have momentum before the Hawkeyes return home for seven games. It’ll be there for the taking, and Iowa can hopefully further eliminate their road woes against a team that they should ideally beat.