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Pitching propels (and derails) Iowa in Snowbird Baseball Classic

After winning its first two games thanks to dominant pitching, things fell apart for Iowa in its third game of the weekend.

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 03 Houston Regional - Iowa v Texas A&M
Rick Heller and the Iowa baseball program are off to a 2-1 start following a trip to San Diego for the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Iowa baseball lived and died on the mound in the Snowbird Baseball Classic this past weekend. The Hawkeyes won their first two contests, taking down Kent State and St. Joseph’s, before falling to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The hype around left-handed pitcher Jack Dreyer is real. Dreyer did his thing in the first win, striking out eight Kent State batters and only allowing two hits in five scoreless innings.

“He started out a little shaky with the strike zone,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “He fought out of that and cruised through the next four innings. He was solid, and I am happy with how Jack pitched.”

Following the win, Dreyer said his confidence is “at an all-time high.” He missed most of last year with injury. Having Dreyer back in the lineup will do wonders for the program.

The relievers took over from there, but it was Grant Leonard capping off Iowa’s impressive pitching performance in the ninth inning. Leonard struck out a pair of batters en route to the 17th save of his Hawkeye career. It was a clutch day for the Hawkeye arms, as Iowa’s bats connected for just five hits.

The pitching was solid once again in Iowa’s win over St. Josephs on Feb. 15; Grant Judkins got the start and allowed a pair of earned runs in his five innings. But Trenton Wallace and Ben Probst took over, and together the pair did not allow a run in their four combined innings.

The offense, though, finally broke through in the win. Ben Norman looked sharp, going 4-for-4 at the plate and notching two RBIs. His hit total tied his career-high. Not a bad outing for the right fielder on his birthday.

However, things fell apart late for the Hawkeyes in their final game of the weekend. Iowa boasted an 8-5 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, but that’s where Pittsburgh tore apart the Hawkeye arm of Grant Leonard for four runs in the inning. Iowa could not counter in the ninth.

More takeaways from Iowa baseball’s three-game weekend

  • Leonard’s eight inning woes obviously didn’t look great, but he’s a more than capable pitcher. Last season, Leonard set the Hawkeye baseball record with 14 saves. He was a second-team All-Big Ten reliever. So don’t get too worked up over that performance.
  • After just five hits against Kent State, Iowa’s offense made progress in the second and third game of the weekend. The Hawkeyes totaled 10 hits against St. Joseph’s and 11 against Pittsburgh.
  • Norman went 6-for-13 on the weekend. He currently boasts the best batting percentage on the team, clocking in at .462.
  • Austin Martin, one of three Hawkeyes to earn preseason Big Ten honors (Norman and Leonard are were the others) went 4-for-13. His best game came against Kent State, where he went 2-for-4 from the plate.

Player of the weekend: Jack Dreyer

Easy choice here. Dryer fueled the Hawkeyes in their season-opening win over Kent State, giving up just two hits and no runs in five innings on the mound. Eight strikeouts, too.

What’s next for Iowa baseball?

Hellerball travels to San Diego for the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament. Iowa faces San Diego State on Friday at 8 p.m. CT, Arizona on Saturday at 3 p.m., and San Diego on Feb. 23 at 4 p.m.