For the second year in a row, the Iowa baseball team is headed to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Hawkeyes downed No. 1 seed Nebraska 2-0 on Friday afternoon to advance in the tournament in a game that was full of drama.
Ryan Erickson got the start of Iowa on the mound, throwing 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings and racked up six strikeouts. He did give up 10 hits, but the ineptitude of the Cornhuskers clutch hitting (they were 1-of-9 with runners in scoring position) was their eventual downfall.
Plenty of credit should go to Erickson, however, who did not allow himself to get rattled. He also only gave up 2 walks on the afternoon and was in control, throwing strikes on 78 of his 117 total pitches. I mean just look at this beauty to end the seventh:
Compared to yesterday’s offensive explosion, Friday’s game wasn’t anywhere near as high scoring and that’s due to some solid work on the mound from the Cornhusker pitching staff. The Hawkeyes were stymied for parts of the game by Nebraska starter Derek Burkamper, who threw 5 innings, giving up six hits and both of the Hawkeye runs. Cornhusker reliever Matt Waldron was absolutely brilliant, striking out 5 in just three innings of work.
Left fielder Matt Whelan got things started for Iowa, hitting a solo shot in the third inning. Whelan had two hits on the day and scored both of the Hawkeye runs. Jake Adams got his first hit of the tournament in the fifth-inning, an RBI single that brought Whelan home. Look at this bomb, though:
Goodbye, ball. The Hawkeyes did struggle with runners on, hitting just 2-of-12 in that situation. Offensively I’m sure Rick Heller would love to see more out of the offensive, but again today Iowa just ran into some good pitching. The Iowa relief was excellent — Zach Daniels threw an inning and Josh Martsching came in for the final out.
Oh, I should probably note that the Hawkeye dugout was up to some shenanigans again:
My goodness, this team is fun. So where does this leave us? Well, Iowa gets the winner of Indiana-Minnesota at 9 a.m. tomorrow for a chance to play in it’s second-straight (!!!) Big Ten title game. The win against Nebraska also helps Iowa’s RPI, though it still seems like it’s going to have to probably win the title for a spot in the tournament.
This is pretty cool though, is it not? Rick Heller’s squad is now 5-1 in the Big Ten Tournament over the past two years and is turning into a perennial contender for the title. That’s where we’re at now and that is a heckuva place to be.