It was a big weekend for Iowa baseball, as they hosted the Big Ten’s hottest team in the Michigan Wolverines. It wasn’t exactly a must-win series by any means, but sitting in eighth place entering the weekend, it certainly would have looked good to win a couple games in order to move up in the standings. The Hawks did it in a big, big way: they ended Michigan’s 20-game winning streak on Friday and then on Sunday, they used the long ball to spark a huge comeback before walking it off in the ninth. The Hawks have been nothing if not resilient all year, and this weekend’s showing was just another example of that resilience.
The Hawks, now 9-7 in conference play, moved up a spot to seventh in the conference, which gives them a little bit of a cushion moving forward. As I noted in the preview for this series, only the top eight teams in the conference move on to the Big Ten Tournament, so it was important to create a little bit of separation between themselves and the ninth place team, Rutgers, who was swept by Purdue this weekend. The Hawks sit a half game out of sixth place, and with six remaining conference games against the Big Ten’s two worst teams, find themselves in fine position to make the tournament with good seeding. The biggest worry between now and then will be to beat Mizzou and Oklahoma State, two upwardly trending teams, to raise that RPI and solidify a spot in the NCAAs.
Game 1: Iowa 4, Michigan 2 (Box Score)
I feel like I write this every week - and it’s probably because I do - but I’ll be damned if Nick Allgeyer doesn’t pitch a gem to kick off every weekend series. This weekend, Allgeyer (W, 5-3) pitched seven innings, allowing just one earned run on five hits to to go along with eight strikeouts. He’s proved to be more than capable of filling the shoes Nick Gallagher occupied last year, as he’s now thrown at least five innings in all 11 of his starts and six or more in his last 10 starts. When Iowa needs a solid outing on the mound, he’s gone above and beyond every single time out. Friday evening’s start was no different.
At the plate, Iowa made sure to give him a nice cushion early in this one. In the third inning, the Hawks took advantage of an error that allowed Matt Hoeg to reach first, then a wild pitch that advanced him to second. A sacrifice fly and a single to center by Tanner Wetrich later, and the Hawkeyes were on the board, 1-0.
The bats would do the rest of their damage in the fourth inning - Lorenzo Elion singled with one out and would score on a Kyle Crowl double; Crowl scored on a triple to right by Hoeg; and Mitchell Boe would chase home Hoeg with a single in the next at-bat, bringing the score to 4-0.
Overall, it was a fine day at the plate for the Hawks, who tallied eight hits and drew five walks, but it was really encouraging to see the Allgeyer and Zach Daniels shut down the Wolverine bats, which rarely left things to question during their huge winning streak. We’ve come to expect big things from that duo, and they provided in one of the biggest spots of Iowa’s season.
Game 2: Michigan 10, Iowa 2 (Box Score)
This game didn’t go according to plan, so here are the very brief cliff notes:
- Robert Neustrom hit a two-run homer in the first! This was all Iowa’s scoring for the day.
- Brady Schanuel’s line: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. The one walk is encouraging, but he didn’t have his swing and miss stuff that’s gotten him out of jams on Saturday.
- Grant Judkins gave up four runs in three innings of relief, snapping a streak of solid outings for him.
- Michigan totaled 14 hits and six walks in this game, looking like the team that won 20 straight games.
Yep. That’s about it. Onto the next one.
Game 3: Iowa 7, Michigan 5 (Box Score)
Ah, yes. Sunday was the big comeback game! Iowa fell behind 5-0 early, but things clicked for the Hawks and they were able to complete a really nice comeback to cement a series victory.
We’ll start with the bad news first: righty Cole McDonald drew his usual Sunday start and Michigan beat up on him in the first couple innings, scoring three in the first and two in the second. In the fourth, McDonald appeared to be have some obvious discomfort in his elbow and ended up being pulled by Rick Heller. McDonald, who had Tommy John surgery in high school, is scheduled to undergo an MRI this week, so we’ll know more then. Depending on what happens in that MRI, this could be a huge blow for the Hawks, as McDonald has been an incredibly capable Sunday starter this season, going 3-1 with a 3.61 ERA. There isn’t an obvious choice to replace him if he has to miss time, and the rotation could end up looking a lot like it did last season, when they went bullpen-by-committee more often than not.
Back to the good news, though! Nick Nelsen and Zach Daniels were brilliant in relief - Nelsen threw one scoreless inning, but Daniels, who has struggled a bit as of late, was wonderful, throwing four innings and allowing just two hits. On a day where McDonald went down with injury, this was a huge pick-me-up from the guys behind him and they’re really the reason Iowa had a chance at winning.
The Hawkeyes started their comeback in the second. It looked a little like this.
- Mitchell Boe hit an RBI single to make it 5-1. Ok, fine.
- Austin Guzzo hit a two-run bomb to left in the third. 5-3. Interesting enough, I guess.
- Matt Hoeg drove home Justin Jenkins with a double in the fourth. 5-4. We have ourselves a ballgame, huh?
- Chris Whelan, hello. A little solo shot to left to tie things up in the seventh. Like what we see!
- Oh, and then this happened. This was really, really nice.
We recommend you spend 1:07 of your day and watch this video if you like Hawkeye walk-off home runs, radio calls, teammates being goofy during postgame interviews, or locker room speeches. #Hellerball #FightForIowa pic.twitter.com/qI98KL8zxQ— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 29, 2018
Iowa wins, 7-5. Iowa takes two of three against the Big Ten’s first place team. Iowa is #good.
The Hawkeyes continue their long home stand with a couple midweek games this week! First, they host Mizzou on Tuesday in a recently scheduled game, and then they’ll host Western Illinois in a Wednesday contest. The Tigers are 29-15 this season and 9-12 in the SEC, which is arguably the country’s toughest conference, while WIU is 10-25. WIU has performed better than their record would indicate as of late, as they started the season off 0-12, but it’s still an opponent Iowa should be able to beat.
Tuesday’s game against Missouri is not scheduled to be streamable, per UI’s athletic website, but you can find Wednesday’s game against Western Illinois on BTN Plus. Both games should be available on the Hawkeye Radio Network.