After winning their first three games of the season in Florida, the Hawkeyes took their perfect record to the Big Easy for a three-game stint against Virginia Tech, Ball State, and New Orleans in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Baseball Classic. The weekend series featured some spectacular pitching on Friday and Sunday, but not a whole lot went right on the mound for Iowa in their lone loss of the weekend on Saturday.
Iowa is now 5-1 on the season and has four very winnable games this next week, including their first home game of the season on Tuesday. Quite frankly, we still don’t know a whole lot about this team - out of the six teams the Hawkeyes have faced this season, New Orleans (4-4) has the best record after two weeks of baseball. These teams could pick it up and turn out to be decent to good, but as of right now, Iowa’s had the privilege of playing some teams that are really struggling.
Game 1: Iowa 2, Virginia Tech 1 (10 innings) (Box Score)
Iowa needed some late game heroics (and a little bit of assistance from VT) in order to take the first game of the weekend, but the real story of this one was the pitching dual between these two staffs.
Nick Allgeyer drew the start for the Hawks and really showed why Rick Heller trusts him as the team’s Friday starter. Allgeyer threw seven innings, allowing just one earned run while scattering five hits and striking out eight Hokies. Zach Daniels (1-0) earned the win for the Hawks with three scoreless innings of relief. Daniels struck out four and allowed just one hit.
We’d be remiss not to mention that VT’s Connor Coward also had a tremendous day on the mound. The Hokie starter pitched eight innings, allowed two hits, and struck out 11 Hawkeyes. The Tech relievers were also solid, allowing that one unearned run in the 10th.
Iowa’s bats really struggled in this one, combining for just four hits and three walks. Shortstop Kyle Crowl got Iowa on the board in the third inning with a solo home run, his first of the season, but things really quieted down after that. The Hawks wouldn’t score again until the 10th - pinch-hitter Austin Guzzo was hit by a pitch and replaced by Kace Massner, who stole second. Ben Norman then chased home Massner thanks to a fielding error by 3B Sam Fragale.
You’ll take a win any way you can get it. Iowa’s pitching led the way on Friday and the bats were just able to do enough to eek out the win.
Game 2: Ball State 14, Iowa 6 (Box Score)
It was an entirely different story on Saturday, as Ball State and Iowa combined for 20 runs in the Cardinals’ 14-6 victory over Iowa. This wasn’t a game that Iowa wanted to lose this weekend, as Ball State (3-4) is probably not very good and actually even kind of bad, but you can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.
The Hawks were able to get on the board first, jumping out to a 2-0 lead thanks to RBI singles by Tyler Cropley and Ben Norman in the first and second inning, respectively. After getting two strong innings from JUCO transfer Brady Schanuel to start the game, it looked like Iowa might be in cruise control for the rest of the game.
That lead didn’t last long, however, as Ball State would go on to score in five of the next six innings, including a 7-run fourth. The Cardinals went on to bat around and chase Schanuel from the game early, never looking back in the process.
Schanuel finished his day completing 3.1 innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on five hits and four walks.
On the righty’s performance, Heller had this to say:
Brady made a good pitch to the player who hit the home run to left field. Brady deserved a better fate; he pitched better than the score indicates.
The bullpen didn’t fare any better, as Nick Nelsen, Cam Baumann, Grant Judkins, and Ben Probst combined to give up seven runs (six earned) over the final 5.2 innings. All-in-all, Iowa’s staff would give up 14 hits and walk six. Not a recipe for success.
Iowa didn’t have a terrible day at the plate, but just were unable to push runners across the plate when they had opportunities. The Hawks had 10 hits and six walks of their own, but left 10 runners on base and struck out 14 times. More often than not, six runs is going to win games with a solid pitching staff, but there wasn’t a whole lot more the bats could’ve done to keep Iowa in this one.
Undefeated season over. :(
Game 3: Iowa 8, New Orleans 2 (Box Score)
The good news is that Iowa was able to get back on track in the final game of the weekend against New Orleans.
After a long day for the pitching staff in which they threw about 200 pitches and were absolutely stomped on by Ball State, Cole McDonald (1-0) pitched a gem. The righty pitched seven innings, allowing two runs (none earned) on three hits. His efficiency was key to his strong performance and long outing, as he needed just 88 pitches to get through his start. The only two runs he allowed came on an RBI single in the third by Cody Ducote, but due to a throwing error by Tyler Cropley earlier in the inning, neither run was earned.
The bats were able to jump on New Orleans early in this one, however, providing all the runs the Hawks would need in the first two innings. Cropley got things started in the first with a two-run double to left, then Justin Jenkins and Cropley would each knock in a run with RBI singles in the second. 4-0 Hawks early.
Iowa would score a couple more runs in the middle innings on RBI singles. Guzzo hit an RBI single in the fourth inning on a 1-2 count and Jenkins, who was getting his first start leading off for the Hawks, chased home Mitchell Boe with a single in the fifth. 6-2 Iowa.
Iowa would put an exclamation point on the night in the ninth inning when Kyle Crowl hit a two-run homer, his second of the season, to extend Iowa’s lead to 8-2. Crowl was 1-for-3 in the game, but scored three runs and played an integral part at the top of Iowa’s lineup.
This was easily Iowa’s best day at the plate all weekend. On top of the eight runs scored, five Hawks had multi-hit games - Tanner Wetrich, Jenkins, Neustrom, Cropley, and Boe each had two hits. The team also drew nine walks while only striking out six times and taking two HBP’s. This is just about the most complete performance Iowa has had at the plate all season and gives them something to build on heading into their name game.
Iowa hosts Cornell College this Tuesday at Duane Banks Field. The game is at 4:05 p.m. Central Time and will be aired on BTN Plus ($$$), as well as on the Hawkeye Radio Network. Tickets to the game will be $2.
The Hawkeyes will send freshman LHP Trenton Wallace to the mound for his first career start. Wallace has pitched 1.2 innings this season accumulating a 5.40 ERA. Cornell will send junior RHP Zachary Greenwald to the hill to face Iowa. Greenwald was 2-4 with a 4.38 ERA over 12 starts in 2017.