All good things must come to an end, and the Hawkeyes streak of consecutive Big Ten series without losing one finally came to a screeching halt in Minneapolis this past weekend. After going a full calendar year without dropping a series in conference play, Iowa dropped the first two games of their three-game set to the Golden Gophers.
Iowa played well enough to win all three games, if we’re being honest - the pitching was pretty solid in each of the three games, but the bats couldn’t do enough to eek out at least one more win. The Hawks are now 7-6 in conference play and find themselves in the bottom half of the Big Ten for the first time all season - they’re currently in eighth place with nine games left. While a slight jump in the standings isn’t impossible, it’s probably not likely with the red hot Wolverines - who have won 20 straight games and are 11-0 in the Big Ten - coming to town, barring a perfect series for the Hawks. If they can salvage a game or two against Michigan, Iowa’s last two series come against Northwestern and Penn State, who are both 1-14 in Big Ten play, and the outlook could be completely different in just a week’s time.
But for now, let’s take a look at how we got here. What went right and what went wrong for the Hawks this weekend against the Gophers?
Game 1: Minnesota 4, Iowa 3 (Box Score)
Nick Allgeyer pitched a pretty good game to start the series off, but the offense wasn’t able to produce enough runs to get him the W as the Hawks dropped Friday’s contest. Allgeyer threw 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and three runs (all earned) against a tough Minnesota lineup. He looked good and kept the Gophers off balance, striking out six and not allowing an extra-base hit during his outing. As the outing went on and the Gophers got a bit more familiar with him, though, they started to get the bat around on the ball - Allgeyer hadn’t allowed a hit in his first four innings of work, but in his final 2.1, allowed all six of the hits he’d surrender on the afternoon.
The turning point of this one came in the seventh inning, as Iowa just couldn’t hang onto a 3-2 lead they’d taken in the top half of the inning. Allgeyer allowed a single to start the inning and coaxed a groundout from the next batter to move the baserunner up a base, but from there, the bullpen wasn’t able to keep Minnesota off the board. Nick Nelsen allowed an RBI double to the first batter he faced to tie the game, and Zach Daniels would do the same later in the inning to give the Gophers a 4-3 lead. That would end up being the final score.
At the plate, the Hawks scored a run apiece in innings 5-7, although they got some help in the fifth and seventh innings. In the fifth, Justin Jenkins scored on a wild pitch after he reached on a single and was moved to third on a single by Ben Norman; in the sixth, Tyler Cropley hit his fifth home run of the year, a solo shot with one out; and in the seventh, the Hawks took advantage of a couple Minnesota errors to push across a run on a sac-fly. Not a banner day for the offense, as they mustered up six hits all afternoon, but they found a way to push across some runs - just not enough on Friday.
Game 2: Minnesota 3, Iowa 0 (Box Score)
Saturday’s game wasn’t particularly good for the Hawks at the plate, nor was it a good start for righty Brady Schanuel.
Schanuel lasted just 2.1 innings, and while it wasn’t a total disaster for him, he needed 75 pitches to get through that. He allowed just two runs (both earned) in his outing, but surrendered four hits and three walks. If there’s anything positive to take out of his outing, it’s that he was missing bats once again - he struck out five Gophers, but that also helped contribute to what was an incredibly high pitch count through 2.1 innings.
The two runs that the Gophers scored of Schanuel were more than enough for them on the afternoon, as Patrick Fredrickson shut the Hawks down for Minnesota. Fredrickson is now 5-0 on the season after throwing 7.2 shutout innings against Iowa. He pitched to contact all afternoon against the Hawks, as evidenced by his two strikeouts, but the Iowa bats just couldn’t do anything with what he gave them. The tallied just six hits off him all afternoon and multiple hits only once (in the seventh), and really, you just have to tip your cap to a guy who comes out and dominates a team without dominating stuff. He earned the W here.
For a positive on Iowa’s side, we have to mention Grant Judkins coming in for a really solid relief appearance. With the short outing from Schanuel, Rick Heller needed someone to come in and eat up innings, and Judkins did so admirably. He threw five innings of one run baseball, allowing three hits and walking just one. The righty’s quietly had a fine season, compiling a 3.54 ERA in over 20 innings of work. He took it on the chin in his last outing against Nebraska where he gave up three runs in an inning of work, but he bounced back nicely here. You like to see that.
Game 3: Iowa 5, Minnesota 3 (Box Score)
Game three went to the Hawks, but Sunday’s contest really belonged to Cole McDonald, as the Iowa righty baffled the Gophers all outing en route to the victory. McDonald (W, 3-1) pitched seven innings in the third game of the weekend, allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven. He got into a couple jams, one in the fifth and seventh innings, but was able to escape both with limited damage done. In the fifth, the Gophers loaded the bases against him with one out and he was able to induce a couple fly outs in order to get out of the inning with just one run allowed. Later, in the seventh, he was saved by a ground-rule double, which kept the runner on first from scoring; he then went on to strike out the next batter to shut down the Minnesota threat.
T5 | Whelan check swing, ground out, but Wetrich turns on the jets and scores. Iowa leads 3-0! #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/UTaVufM6QO— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 22, 2018
T6 | @kylecrowl_12 gets that run back with a big two-out, RBI single to CF to knock in Cropley. Iowa 4, Minny 1 #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/SfxaMJfqNT— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 22, 2018
Oh hello again Chris.
T7 | SEE YA! @whaleman27 hits a two-out, solo home run, deep to LF. #Hawkeyes lead 5-1! pic.twitter.com/dxt98pOn9Q— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 22, 2018
The Hawks are about to start a nine-game home stand, starting with University of Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Panthers are 15-18, but in the midst of a four-game winning streak, which has seen them sweep Youngstown State and defeat Northwestern in a midweek game. They’re 1-4 this season against the Big Ten, including losses to Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois, all teams the Hawkeyes have played this season and are 5-4 against.
Wednesday’s game will start at 6 p.m. and will be streamable on BTN Plus. You can listen to it in all places where the Hawkeye Radio Network is available.