Coming into their conference series against Ohio State, Iowa baseball had been blistering hot, having won 9 of their last 12 games. After starting their conference slate off with a series split against Indiana and series win in Champaign, the Hawks had a chance this weekend to keep the momentum going before heading to Lincoln, NE next weekend.
The Hawks did just that, winning two of three games against the Buckeyes to improve their Big Ten record to 5-3 on the season. It’s now been nearly a calendar year since the last time they lost a series in conference play, as you’d have to go all the way back to April 21-23 of 2017 when they dropped two of three to Rutgers. Iowa sits in sixth place in the conference, but if they can keep up the winning pace, there are a couple teams ahead of them in the standings who should come back down to earth sooner or later.
In the series preview, I mentioned that Ohio State has a prolific offense that is at or near the top of just about every statistical category in the Big Ten and that it’d take a weekend of stellar pitching from the Hawks to come out on top. The pitching staff came through in a big way - the Buckeyes were averaging about eight runs per game heading into the series, and they were able to muster up just eight the whole series.
Game 1: Ohio State 2, Iowa 1 (Box Score)
Iowa benefitted from some great pitching in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, but the major storyline of this one was missed opportunities with runners on base.
Nick Allgeyer (L, 3-3) continued his stretch of solid performances for the Hawks, pitching six innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. The lefty struck out eight and walked three before being relieved by Grant Judkins, who pitched three scoreless innings of his own. Together the two kept Iowa well within striking distance all game and their performances should’ve been more than enough to earn Iowa the W.
Unfortunately, the offense just wasn’t able to muster up enough runs to get them over that hump. The Hawkeyes actually scored first, taking advantage of a Chris Whelan leadoff double in the third when Tyler Cropley singled to center to chase him home. Outside that quick flash of positivity, though, things were pretty bleak. Iowa left nine runners on base, including two in the first, seventh, and ninth innings. Perhaps the most crushing opportunity for the Hawks came in the ninth - with two outs and the tying run 90 feet away, Whelan struck out swinging to end the game.
All-in-all, Iowa’s lone loss of the weekend was extremely winnable, but the bats weren’t able to get it going enough to support the strong pitching effort. The offense can’t show up in every game, but man, you’d really like to see them get it going enough when the pitching staff has as solid of a game as they had.
Game 2: Iowa 9, Ohio State 5 (Box Score)
Game two of the twin bill was a different story, as the Hawks jumped on Ohio State for seven runs in the first and never looked back en route to a 9-5 victory.
In addition to five hits and a walk, Iowa was able to take advantage of a couple first inning errors with Chris Whelan at the plate to help get some runners on board and across. In fact, five of their seven runs in the first were unearned, and here’s how they got them:
After that wild first, it was a relatively quiet game for the Iowa bats. The OSU bullpen was able to keep the Hawks relatively silent, with the exception of the seventh inning, when Lorenzo Elion knocked in two runs with a single to left.
On the bump, things went well enough for Heller’s crew, who didn’t need a perfect day with all the runs coming across. Brady Schanuel (W, 5-3) pitched six innings of three-run baseball, including seven strikeouts and four walks. You’d still like to see that walk number go down, but I guess if anything, he’s consistent - he’s walked exactly four in six of his starts, while walking two in the other two.
Game 3: Iowa 2, Ohio State 1 (Box Score)
In the rubber match, runs were once again at a premium, as the two teams dualed on a snowy day in Iowa City.
Iowa was able to get on the board in the second inning, as they took advantage of a HBP to lead off the inning. Austin Guzzo was hit by a pitch and was able to advance to third when Lorenzo Elion reached on a throwing error. Guzzo would be chased home when the third batter of the inning, Kyle Crowl, hit a sac-fly to left to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as in the fourth, Cole McDonald made his only mistake of the afternoon when Noah McGowan hit a solo homer to left to tie the game. Outside this, McDonald was lights out on the afternoon, pitching six innings and striking out eight.
Unlike in the first game of the series, Iowa was able to get some late inning, two-out magic going, as they were able to take a lead in the eighth. After two flyouts to start the frame, Crowl drew a walk on a full-count before Justin Jenkins took the first pitch of his at-bat to left for a single. The Buckeyes made the decision to turn to dominant closer Seth Kinkler to escape the damage, but it wouldn’t work this time - Grant Judkins was able to take a 2-0 offering down the left field line to bring home Crowl and give the Hawks a 2-1 lead, one which they wouldn’t relinquish.
Zach Daniels (W, 4-1), who relieved McDonald earlier in the game, was able to close things down in the ninth to earn the Hawks the series victory. Daniels pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just two baserunners and striking out three, and man has he been dominant this year. Through 11 appearances, the righty has pitched 23 innings and owns an ERA of 1.57 in 2018. Last year, he was overly dependent on missing bats, as opposing hitters were batting .293 against him, but this year has been a different story altogether, as they’re hitting just .169 so far.
The Hawkeyes travel to Peoria, IL to take on the Bradley Braves in a Tuesday night contest. Iowa previously hosted Bradley in a midweek game a couple weeks ago, which saw victory come via a walk-off grand slam by Tyler Cropley. The contest is set to take place at 7 p.m. and you should be able to listen to the game in all places that Hawkeye Radio Network is available.