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Hellerball: Iowa Baseball Takes 2 of 3 Against Ohio State, Clinches Big Ten Tournament Berth

Oh, and Robert Neustrom hit a 450-foot game-winning bomb, too.

Anthony Vazquez-The Daily Iowan

Last week, I mentioned that Iowa could very well secure a berth in the Big Ten Tournament in their series against Ohio State. Well, after winning two of three games, they did just that and they could very well win the Big Ten outright if they perform well next weekend against Illinois.

Here is a look at the current Big Ten standings, as of 5/15.

The Hawkeyes are now just a game and a half out of first place, although they’ll have to leapfrog a few teams to get to that spot since they sit in fifth place in the conference. Unfortunately, they’re not likely to get much help - the top teams face off against Penn State, Rutgers, Purdue, and Michigan State in their final weekend of league play, all of whom are under .500 in league play.

On the other hand, Michigan State (sitting in ninth place) is now officially unable to pass Iowa in the standings, which means that the lowest Iowa can place in the conference is eighth. It’s ridiculous that Iowa is just a game and a half out of first place, while also just a few games out of the final spot to reach the tournament. The Big Ten has truly been competitive this year, which you like to see.

With that quick recap of the standings done, let’s talk about the series against Ohio State.

Game 1: Iowa 9, Ohio State 5 (Box Score | Highlights)

The Hawks jumped all over Ohio State pitching in the first game of the series, as they scored in the final six innings they came to bat. Every Hawkeye starter recorded a hit and Chris Whelan, Jake Adams, Tyler Cropley, and Matt Hoeg all recorded multiple hits. Jake Adams hit his 17th home run of the season to get the Hawks started in the third inning and would also go on to score three runs himself. Hoeg and Neustrom also knocked in two runs apiece in this game. A lot more happened on the offensive side of this one, but you can take a look at the box score to see who performed and how the Hawks pushed all nine runs across the board - six innings of scoring is a whole lot to recap.

The pitching staff got knocked around a lot in this one, but for the most part were able to keep the Buckeye bats in check despite giving up 12 hits. Nick Gallagher started this one for the Hawks and only gave up two runs over seven innings while also striking out nine. The one negative from his start was that he was hit around a whole lot, surrendering ten of the OSU hits. Kyle Shimp pitched 123 innings and ended up struggling in the ninth, giving up a three-run bomb before getting pulled. Nick Nelsen closed this one out, throwing three pitches to record a strike out. Good appearance by Nelsen, IMO.

Game 2: Ohio State 12, Iowa 7 (Box Score | Highlights)

Things weren’t so great for the Hawkeyes in this one in any aspect despite the seven runs Iowa pushed across the plate in the second game of the series. The Hawks tried to complete a comeback, but never quite made it back from the 8-1 deficit they fell into.

Ryan Erickson only went four innings in this start, giving up five runs on seven hits on his way to the loss. Most of the bullpen didn’t fare much better, as only Nick Nelsen did not give up a run. Josh Martsching had his worst appearance all season, giving up two home runs and an RBI double in the ninth. It was pretty clear that he was losing velocity at a certain point, as he dipped a few numbers in the MPH department.

Meanwhile at the plate, the Hawks scored seven runs, but only two of them were earned. Jake Adams hit his 18th home run of the season in the fourth, Matt Hoeg hit his fourth on a three-run homer in the sixth, and the Hawks pushed three more runs across in the seventh to bring the game within one run, but they weren’t able to even things up before the pitching imploded again in the ninth.

Game 3: Iowa 11, Ohio State 10 (Box Score | Highlights)

Now this was a weird, exciting, fun game. I won’t do any justice to this recap, so watch the highlights and read my dude Jordan Hansen’s recap of the game for the Gazette. It’s great, and he got quotes from players and coaches because he’s better than me.

On Deck

Iowa plays Nebraska Omaha in their final home game of the season on Tuesday, which is today. The game starts at 6:05pm and is set to be aired on BTN+.

The Mavericks went 28-28 last year, but this year’s team is nowhere near as good as last year’s team was. UNO is 12-36 and currently on a five-game losing streak. Their best hitter is batting .285, but they’re not much of a power-hitting squad to make up for their inability to hit the ball, either. Which is why I’m bringing back the Jake Adams home run counter!

2017 Nebraska Omaha home runs: 14

2017 Jake Adams home runs: 19

Their pitching staff isn’t great, either. They have a staff ERA of 6.99 and opponents are hitting .318 against them. The Mavericks have struggled to find consistent starts after their Friday and Saturday starters, as they’ve trotted 10 different starters this season.

This shouldn’t even be a contest. Iowa should whip ‘em. Not that it matters, honestly, because it’s just a meaningless non-con game. Maybe Iowa will actually start the bench mob in this one? That could make things interesting.