Another weekend, another series victory for Rick Heller’s Iowa baseball squad.
At this point in this season, it’s surprising when this team doesn’t win a weekend series, regardless of the level of competition. And this weekend, the Hawkeyes had their work cut out for them against an Oklahoma State Cowboys squad that came into the three-game series ranked as No. 12 or No. 17 or No. 19, depending on your poll of choice. Baseball polls are weird, man.
As Max stated in his preview, this wasn’t a must-win series, but “winning a couple games would go a long way in solidifying them as a team inside the bubble for NCAAs,” he wrote. Well folks, here we are. After losing on Friday night, Iowa took two out of three games, and the bubble at minimum seems to be where this team has landed. The Hawks are now 28-16 on the season, and in sixth place in the Big Ten.
In short, things are looking good for Hellerball. Now, let’s recap the weekend.
Game 1: OSU 7, Iowa 6 (Box score)
Not a ton to say about this one. Iowa trailed by six runs after 3.5 innings and trailed 7-1 after four. But the scoring ended there for the Cowboys and didn’t for the Hawks. They rallied back to the tune of five runs of their own in the fourth thanks to a Tyler Cropley three-run homer to right field.
However, it wasn’t enough, and neither team scored again in the eventual battle of relief pitchers. A tough loss, particularly after last week’s other tough loss against Missouri. But all hope was not lost...
Game 2: Iowa 16, OSU 14 (Box score)
While this obviously doesn’t make up for the brutal, high scoring loss against the Tigers, I’m sure it helped. The team scored its 16 runs on 14 hits. Every inning but the second featured at least one run, and the game lasted over four hours.
The game was tied at 3 apiece after one inning before the aforementioned scoreless second and a 2-run lead opened up by the Cowboys in the third. But the Hawks responded with a Robert Neustrom solo home run that was followed by a Kyle Crowl two-run double that gave Iowa the lead.
Things started to look bad in the fourth with the Cowboys scoring six runs, but Iowa chipped away at the 11-6 lead with two runs of their own in the fourth. Another run in the fifth made the score 11-9 before OSU scored again in the sixth. But the Hawks responded with an offensive explosion of their own. A Neustrom single got the scoring off before Tyler Cropley and Austin Guzzo got the bases loaded before Hoeg cleared them with a hit down the left-field line.
The offensive prowess continued in the eighth thanks to a Neustrom three-run homer that flipped the switch to 16-12. The Cowboys fought back in the ninth, earning two runs off reliever Zach Daniels, but he also earned the last three outs of the game from the mound to stave off a Cowboy comeback.
It was the second time this week that the Hawks have scored a season-high 16 runs. Here’s some video:
Matt Hoeg: 2-4 with 6 RBI and some clutch hitting in Iowa's 16-14 win. See you for Sunday's finale at 11:35 a.m. pic.twitter.com/x76QJ66VAs— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 5, 2018
Coach Heller's postgame comments following Iowa Baseball's 16-14 win Saturday against Oklahoma State. Series finale Sunday at 11:35 a.m. pic.twitter.com/JqnEf9zwvr— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 5, 2018
Game 3: Iowa 11, OSU 3 (Box score)
Iowa ended its weekend with another explosive offensive performance that sealed the series victory — and hopefuly sealed an NCAA Tournament appearance, too.
The bats wasted no time getting going, scoring four runs in the first inning off a Tyler Cropley two-run single that was followed by a Luke Farley grounder for the early lead. OSU responded with a run in the third to chip away at the lead, but Iowa responded with six difference-making runs in the seventh, and another run for good measure in the eight. OSU tried to rally again in the ninth to the tune of two runs, but relievers Grant Judkins and Nick Nelson took care of things from the mound.
Speaking of pitching, freshman Jack Dreyer had his first weekend start in place of the injured Cole McDonald. He performed admirably in five innings, striking out six and only allowing two hits and one run. Hopefully he can continue to perform well from the mound, the loss of McDonald continues to loom over the squad.
Freshman Jack Dreyer allowed just one run on a pair of hits while striking out six in five innings of work Sunday. pic.twitter.com/GLYuFlgXuK— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 6, 2018
We came out and played hard three days in a row,” Rick Heller told HawkeyeSports. “The energy and effort was the difference maker for us.”
Mitchell Boe sprints around the bases. Just part of the excitement at Banks Field this weekend in an important series win! pic.twitter.com/SQpPii5Njq— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 6, 2018
Hear from Coach Heller following Iowa's series win against Oklahoma State: pic.twitter.com/XdY4NhvWiH— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 6, 2018
This team continues to improve and play its best baseball at the right time. Despite injuries, the pitching continues to be enough, and the bats can get white-hot when the situation necessitates. That will bode well for them going into next weekend’s three-game series at Northwestern. The team didn’t make the cut for this week’s Baseball America rankings, but if they keep winning, it’s only a matter of time.