Momentum seemed to have shifted for Rick Heller’s Iowa baseball squad after his team took a weekend series against Nebraska, one of the better teams in the Big Ten this season.
A week later, the momentum seems to have shifted in the opposite direction, as Iowa Baseball lost two of three over the weekend to Rutgers.
It’s never good to lose to Rutgers at anything, even baseball.
The two losses put the Hawkeyes at a 23-15 (6-6 B1G) mark for the season, and 7th in the Big Ten. In between the series’ against Nebraska and Rutgers, the Hawkeyes also had a 6-4 loss to Bradley in Peoria, a team they beat 12-1 earlier in the season.
As our own Jordan Hansen mentioned in this morning’s Overreaction Monday, the rest of Iowa’s slate only features teams lower than them in conference rankings. On paper, that should lead to some wins, but it’s been an up-and-down season in the Big Ten for the Hawks, and beating lesser teams probably won’t help Iowa’s postseason dreams. Anyways, let’s break down the weekend.
Game 1: Iowa 8, Rutgers 3 (Box Score)
Things got off to a good start for the Hawkeyes in this one. Matt Hoeg was the star of the show, hitting a double in the second inning, and a home run in the sixth. Robert Neustrom also hit a two-run homer in the third.
Despite giving up a run in the first inning, the Hawks made up for it in the second inning on a sequence that began with freshman Ben Norman getting hit by a pitch. Austin Guzzo singled on the next at bat, and Hoeg gave the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game with a double that brought Norman and Guzzo home.
The scoring continued in the third when Neustrom hit his two-run homer that gave the Hawkeyes a 4-1 lead on his fourth home run of the season. The scoring continued from there. Hoeg knocked Guzzo home in the sixth with a home run of his own that gave Iowa a 6-1 lead. The Scarlet Knights managed a run in response on an RBI from SS Joe Welsh, but Iowa made up for it in the seventh thanks to a Jake Adams sacrifice fly that scored Mason McCoy. Robert Neustrom added another run in the eighth for good measure, thanks to a bad throw, and that was that. Rutgers managed a small rally in the ninth, scoring off a Mike Carter single, but the result was never in doubt.
On the pitching front, Nick Gallagher earned his fifth win of the year thanks to a 6 inning, 113 pitch outing in which he only allowed five hits and struck out four batters. Meanwhile, Zach Daniels got the save in three innings, allowing one run and four hits.
Full highlights below:
Highlights of Friday's 8-3 win against Rutgers. Hawks at home tonight at 6:00 (also live on BTN). https://t.co/11I0nvGK1V— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 22, 2017
That was the good. The rest was not so pretty. In the next two games, Iowa was outscored, 18-8.
Game 2: Rutgers 5, Iowa 3 (Box Score)
With the fine folks at the Big Ten Network in town to televise the game, the Hawks grabbed a 1-0 lead after three innings thanks to a Chris Whelan solo home run, but it was all Rutgers after that (that’s a weird thing to type).
The Scarlet Knights responded to the home run with a two-run fourth inning. After striking out Rutgers CF Jawuan Harris, Iowa pitcher Ryan Erickson walked Mike Martinez. An error on the next at bat sent Martinez to third and batter Tom Marcinczyk to second. Third basemen Christian Campell responded with a groundout that brought Martinez home to tie up the game before a Chris Folinusz single to centerfield gave Rutgers a 2-1 lead. The Scarlet Knights added a run apiece in the fifth, sixth and ninth innings, to go up 5-1, needing only three outs to even the series.
Iowa rallied, however, thanks to Chris Whelan’s second homer of the night (this one for two runs!) with only one out, but Scarlet Knights relief pitcher Max Herrmann struck out Mason McCoy and Jake Adams in the next two at-bats, ending the game and any chance of a comeback.
Game 3: Rutgers 13, Iowa 5 (Box Score)
Rutgers cemented its series win (and Iowa’s first home series loss) with an explosive 13-run outing that saw the Hawkeyes give up three runs in the first inning, five in the third and two in the fourth before managing to get on the board themselves, thanks to a Matt Hoeg two-run homer.
Head coach Rick Heller called it “a bad day,” and brought up pitching as the afternoon’s weak spot. Cole McDonald began the day on the mound for Iowa, walking four, giving up two hits, and allowing four runs. Only one Hawkeyes pitcher, sophomore reliever Sammy Lizarraga, pitched for more than two innings. He and fellow sophomore Shane Ritter did manage to pitch five combined shutout innings, but by that point, the damage had already been done.
“Giving up eight runs in the first three innings, and all the free bases, just wasn’t good,” Heller said. He also mentioned that his team is now at a crossroad at this point in the season. His squad has four conference series’ left to right the ship, facing Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois, with single games against Milwaukee, Western Illinois, and Omaha in between.
Not a lot of highlights for the Hawkeyes, but Chris Whelan did manage to prevent more scoring in the seventh inning with this diving catch:
GREAT effort from Chris Whelan on this catch! @UIBaseball #Hawkeyes https://t.co/m1BJFomAvX— BTN Student U (@BTNStudentU) April 23, 2017
Iowa continues its seven-game homestead tomorrow with a one-game meeting with the University of Milwaukee. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.
The Panthers are coming off a week in which they played five games, winning one, losing four, and having one game postponed. They’ll come to Duane Banks Field with a 13-24 overall record on the year.
We’ll see what side of the crossroad the Hawks end up on, but it should be a good opportunity for the team to recover from a difficult week and prepare for a strong closeout to the end of the season.