After a rocky start, Rick Heller’s Iowa baseball team has really gotten into a rhythm. The Hawkeyes started the season 5-8 with a series losses to Michigan and Nebraska, but over the last month have not lost another series. Since March 27th, Iowa is 13-3 with series wins over Maryland, Purdue, Minnesota, Rutgers and now Northwestern.
The hot streak continued over the weekend, as Iowa had a pair of two-game stints in front of some happy Hawkeye fans in Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes split with Maryland in the first set and swept Northwestern in the second in dramatic fashion to take their season record to 18-11 and firm up their grip on the 4th spot in the Big Ten.
Series 1 vs. Maryland
Things got off to a slow start for the Hawkeyes on Friday night as starter Trenton Wallace struggled to find command early. The Terps loaded the bases in the first, but couldn’t come away with runs. They drew first blood in the top of the third on a sac fly. Maryland extended the lead to 2-0 in the top of the sixth after Wallace exited for Trace Hoffman.
But the Hawkeyes would finally get the bats going in the bottom of the inning after being stifled by Maryland starter Sean Burke for the first five innings. Shortstop Brendad Sher plated two on a double to knock Burke from the game.
The Hawkeyes added two more in the bottom of the seventh and an insurance run in the 8th to put the game out of reach. Iowa’s bullpen was solid going four and 2⁄3 innings giving up just three hits and walking two. Dylan Nedved got a 3-inning save, his 6th of the year.
Aside from Sher, the Hawkeye bats were led by Peyton Williams and Zeb Adreon, who each went 2-for-4 on the day with a run scored and RBI each. For Adreon, it kicked off what would be a great weekend.
Game two on Saturday had a similar feel. Iowa starter Drew Irvine struggled early and often, giving up four runs on five hits with six walks and four strike outs in three innings of work. The Terps got on him early, plating three in the top of the first. Maryland added another run in the top of the fourth to make it 4-0 before the Iowa bats came alive.
The Hawkeyes tried to mount a comeback starting in the bottom of the sixth. Dylan Nedved dropped a blooper into right field to break the seal. He would later score to make it 4-3.
Maryland bounced right back in the top of the seventh, scoring four more runs on three hits of relievers Ben Beutel and Ben Probst. The Hawkeyes wouldn’t die, however, and came back with two more runs of their own in the 8th. Nedved and Matthew Sosa had RBI singles to cut the lead to 8-5.
Iowa tagged Terps closer Sam Bello for a run in the bottom of the 9th to make it 8-6 before Bello closed the door. Nedved and Adreon led the way for the Hawkeye bats, each going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Nedved also had three RBIs on the day.
Hope to see you at Banks today and tomorrow for more Hawkeye Baseball! pic.twitter.com/mTpSBTgauE— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 25, 2021
Series 2 vs. Northwestern
The Northwestern series had a different feel. After giving up one in the top of the first, starter Cam Baumann settled in to go six innings giving up two runs on five hits.
The Hawkeyes kicked off their scoring in the bottom of the second and then opened the flood gates, getting at least one run every inning the rest of the way. That included three runs in each of the 4th, 5th and 6th innings to take the lead to 12-2.
The Wildcats got a run back in the top of the 7th to make it 12-3, but Peyton Williams got it right back in the bottom half of the inning with Iowa’s first HR of the weekend.
The 8th inning brought a similar story as Northwestern plated one to make it 13-4, but the Hawkeyes answered again in the bottom half of the inning. This time is was Ben Norman, who drove in his career-high 4th and 5th runs of the game on a double to left field, taking Iowa’s lead to 15-4.
Norman would finish the day 3-for-6 with 5 RBIs and a run scored. Senior Zeb Adreon continued his hot weekend with a 4-for-4 day that included 4 runs and 4 RBIs. Iowa’s 18 hits on the day tied a season high while the 15 runs were the second most on the year.
Iowa capped off the weekend with a rare Monday afternoon game to closer out the set against Northwestern. The finale was much more dramatic than the opener.
With the wind blowing out at Duane Banks, the wildcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on three solo home runs off starter Duncan Davitt in the first and second inning. Iowa got one back in the second after Adreon got his conference-leading fourth triple of the season.
The Hawkeyes cut it to 3-2 in the fourth before Izaya Fullard got ahold of his second home run of the season with a monster shot to dead center, tying things up at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.
Northwestern came back with another HR in the top of the sixth to make it 4-3, but the Hawkeyes answered in the bottom of the inning with a sac fly from Ben Norman plating one and Fullard knocking in another on a double. That gave Iowa it’s first lead at 5-4.
But the seventh brought more scoring for the Wildcats as they tagged Trace Hoffman with a triple and another HR while plating four in the inning. That took the Northwestern lead to 8-5 with the Hawkeyes needing to do damage in the bottom of the 8th.
They did just that on the back of RBIs from Trenton Wallace, Austin Martin and Brayden Frazier to knot things at eight each entering the 9th.
Reliever Dylan Nedved gave up the lead on an RBI single in the top of the 9th. He then pitches his way out of a jam with a strikeout and induced groundout to give the Hawkeyes one more shot in the bottom of the 9th.
That’s all Iowa needed as Brendan Sher got things going with a double before Ben Norman drove him home with a game-tying RBI single. The Hawkeyes put the pedal to the metal with a Fullard single to get two runners on. Heller went to a pinch hitter with one out and the game’s outcome potentially hinging on the at-bat.
Iowa City native RS junior Brett McCleary stepped to the plate and fell into a 1-2 hole before sending Hawkeye fans home in spectacular fashion.
The Hawkeyes end up winning 12-9 to finish the weekend 3-1 and improving to 18-11 overall.
For his tremendous performance over the weekend, Zeb Adreon was named the Big Ten player of the week. Adreon went 10 of 14 last week with 5 RBIs and 7 runs scored. This marks the second straight week a Hawkeye has won the award after Ben Norman took the honors a week ago.
Up Next: Indiana
Iowa needs to continue riding the hot streak as they enter a major road test this weekend. The Hawkeyes will travel to Bloomington for a three-game set against the Indiana Hoosiers. IU is currently second in the Big Ten standings at 18-8 overall, a game and a half ahead of Iowa in the conference standings.
The matchup is notable as it’s the only remaining for Iowa against a team currently with a winning record. A series win would not only bolster the Hawkeyes’ standing in the conference, but given them a signature series win for the NCAA Tournament. Both teams are currently projected to be in the field, but a loss here would put Iowa firmly on the bubble without a real opportunity for another big time series victory.
Indiana has won four straight and seven of their last eight after sweeping Minnesota last weekend. Game one is set for Friday afternoon at 4pm CT with Saturday’s matchup at 1pm CT and the series finale on Sunday at 11am CT. All games are available on BTN+.