Game 1: Iowa 3, Michigan 2
Iowa's Calvin Mathews went the distance in game one, overcoming two early Michigan runs for a complete-game win.
Michigan drew first blood with some small-ball in the bottom of the first. First baseman Jacob Cronenworth knocked a one-out single, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Wolverine centerfielder Jackson Glines was unable to find the right side, but Cronenworth advanced to third nonetheless on Glines's groundout to short. Leftfielder Kyle Jusick delivered an RBI single to bring Cronenworth home.
Mathews rebounded in the second, striking out the side in order, but Michigan added to its lead in the third, as Glines brought home shortstop Travis Maezes with a one-out groundout after back-to-back one-out singles by Maezes and Cronenworth put runners at the corners. Through three innings, Mathews had surrendered just three singles, but the Hawks trailed 2-0.
Iowa's lineup, which had only mustered one baserunner in the first three frames, quickly erased Michigan's piecemeal work in the fourth. Second baseman Jake Mangler and shortstop Jake Yacinich drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. A wild pitch then moved the Jakes to second and third with no outs. First baseman Tyler Peyton brought home Mangler with a groundout to second, with the added benefit of moving Yacinich to third. Rightfielder Taylor "Zeus" Zeutenhorst notched his 22nd RBI of the season with a single that brought home Yacinich. DH Dan Potempa also singled, and he and Zeutenhorst moved to second and third on a groundout by leftfielder Kris Goodman. Catcher Trevor Kenyon struck out, though, stranding the two runners, and leaving the game tied, 2-2.
The Hawkeyes then grabbed the lead in the fifth, with centerfielder Eric Toole and Mangler rapping one-out singles and reaching the corners with one out. After a Yacinich strikeout, Peyton notched his second RBI of the game with a clutch two-out single.
Mathews really hit his stride in the middle innings, striking out the side around a single in the Wolverine fourth, leaving him with seven strikeouts through four. He retired Michigan in order in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. The Hawkeyes failed to add any insurance, though, leaving the bases loaded in the seventh and two runners stranded in the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, Michigan reserve leftfielder Carmen Benedetti broke Mathews' stretch of dominance with a leadoff single. Zach Zott, whose name may give him a future as a Dr. Seuss character, pinch ran for Benedetti, and moved into scoring position on a bunt by Maezes. But then Mathews pulled out his most game-changing throw of the game, picking Zott (and the potential tying run) off of second, with Mangler eventually tagging Zott in a rundown. Cronenworth flied out to center to end the eighth, and Mathews finished what he started, setting down side in order in the ninth to seal the 3-2 win.
Game 2: Michigan 4, Iowa 2
Michigan starter Evan Hill stymied Iowa's bats in game two, but the Hawkeyes grabbed a late lead against Wolverine closer Jacob Cronenworth. Nonetheless, an eighth-inning meltdown coughed the game up for Iowa.
Iowa starter Sasha Kuebel continued his recent promising pitching, surrendering just five hits, no walks, and one run on a two-out third inning RBI single through seven innings. Hill matched Kuebel, though, leaving with a 1-0 lead after five and two-thirds, having given up only two hits, working around three walks and a hit batsman. Three Michigan middle relief men combined for a hitless inning and a third, preserving the 1-0 Michigan lead through seven.
Cronenworth, who entered the series with five saves and a 0.96 ERA, trotted out to start the eighth. Hawkeye third baseman Nick Day started something, though, fouling of three 3-2 pitches to work a nine-pitch leadoff walk. A wild pitch and a sacrifice moved Day to third with one out. A Mangler single brought Day home to tie the game. But Iowa wanted more.
Yacinich flied out, but another Cronenworth wild pitch moved Mangler into scoring position with two outs. Peyton then laced an RBI double to right-center to give Iowa a 2-1 lead heading to the home half.
Wolverine second baseman Eric Jacobson doubled to lead off the Michigan eighth. Maezes got down a bunt, and Iowa catcher Trevor Kenyon committed a throwing error trying to nab Jacobson, leaving runners at the corners with no outs. Cronenworth, now seeking the win after his blown save, obliged himself with an RBI single to center, tying the game 2-2. Kuebel then walked Glines to load the bases, still with none out, precipitating his exit. Tyler Radtke replaced Kuebel, and induced a grounder to Peyton at first, who threw home for the force out. But Michigan reserve third baseman Trey Miller brought home the go-ahead run, and another, with a two-run single to right.
Iowa didn't make much noise in the ninth. Kenyon drew a two-out walk after a Zeutenhorst strikeout and a Goodman flyout. Jake Riffice, pinch-running for Kenyon, didn't move any farther, though, as Day flied out on an 0-2 pitch to end the game.
Game 3: Michigan 6, Iowa 5
Iowa was again unable to capitalize on top-of-the-eighth offensive heroics, squandering a scoring opportunity in the top of the ninth, and going down in walk-off fashion in the nearly four-hour finale in Ann Arbor.
Tyler Peyton had a rough start on the mound for Iowa. Glines beat out a two-out infield single in the first, and moved to third on a ground-rule double by leftfielder Kyle Jusick. Peyton uncorked a wild pitch, bringing Glines home, and yet again Michigan was first on the scoreboard.
Peyton stranded two Wolverines in the second, and set down the side in order in both the third and fourth. But the fifth brought more trouble and ultimately the end of Peyton's day. Michigan rightfielder Jackson Lamb led off the fifth with a single, and moved into scoring position on a groundout by Trey Miller. The Hawkeyes tried to pick Lamb off, but botched the play, and allowed him to advance to third with one out. Another ground-rule double, this time by Maezes, brought Lamb home to move Michigan's lead to 2-0. Maezes stole third on a 3-1 pitch that simultaneously passed Cronenworth to first, and Cronenworth then took second in the course of a walk to Glines, loading the bases with still only one out. Peyton walked Jusick, bringing in a run, and then exited the game, leaving the bases loaded. Brandon Shulista replaced Peyton and promptly walked both batters he faced, running Michigan's lead to 5-0 before Nick Hibbing stopped the bleeding for Iowa.
Meanwhile, Michigan starter Trent Szkutnik mowed through Iowa's lineup, allowing only four hits in seven innings, and leaving with a shutout intact in spite of two walks and three hit batsmen. But Szkutnik's fine outing would only amount to a no-decision.
Jake Yacinich led off the eighth with a single on a 1-2 delivery from Michigan reliever Alex Lakatos. Lakatos kindly tossed one to the backstop, moving Yacinich to second. Lakatos then departed after walking Potempa on five pitches. Enter Keith Lehmann, who was greeted on his first offering with a single by Zeutenhorst, loading the bases with no outs. Lehmann then forced in a run, walking Nick Day after having him down 0-2. Logan McAnallen then trotted in from the bullpen, trying to protect the 5-1 Michigan lead. McAnallen walked Kris Goodman, also on a 3-2 pitch, bringing the score to 5-2 and keeping the bags juiced. Iowa catcher Blake Hickman raised the intrigue level, finding right-center on a 1-2 pitch for a two-run single to bring the deficit to one. James Bourque replaced McAnallen, inheriting runners at the corners, and was greeted with a squeeze [!] bunt by first baseman Nick Roscetti to tie the game at five apiece.
Bourque would get out of the eighth with the tie intact, following an Eric Toole groundout and Hickman getting caught wandering to far off third with two outs (Roscetti was retired at first on the squeeze play). Lakatos, Lehmann, and McAnallen combined to record zero outs out of six batters faced, allowing five earned runs, with three hits and three walks.
Hickman took the mound for Iowa in the eighth, and looked sharp, setting down Michigan one-two-three with a pair of strikeouts. Kenyon led off the Iowa ninth with a four-pitch walk. Zeutenhorst singled, moving Kenyon into scoring position. Day looked at three straight strikes, but a Michigan wild pitch moved Kenyon and Zeutenhorst to second and third with one out. But Goodman went down looking after working the count to 2-2, and Hickman grounded a 2-2 pitch to the mound to end the threat.
Hickman returned the leadoff walk favor to Michigan in the bottom of the ninth, passing Lamb on a 3-2 pitch. Zott struck out, failing to get down a bunt on a 3-2 pitch. Now, to give you all a peek behind the curtain into my process: I cull these recaps out the boxscore/play-by-play for each game posted on Iowa's official athletic website. I tell you this now, because it appears from the play-by-play that Coach Heller replaced Hickman with Tyler Radtke, only to have Radtke intentionally walk Maezes. I'm not going to harp on this too much, seeing as Rick Heller has 700-some-odd Division I coaching wins to my zero, but conventional baseball wisdom as I understand it says having your new arm entering the game issue the intentional pass right away doesn't maximize his sharpness. Regardless, Radtke nearly induced a double play, but Cronenworth beat the throw to first to keep Lamb alive as the winning run at third with two outs. Glines then took a 1-1 pitch to right field to end the game 6-5.
Welp. Two tough losses and one close come-from-behind win. If there's one trend emerging so far in B1G play, it may be that the Hawkeyes are slow out of the gate. Iowa's opponents have scored first in all six games. In half of its conference games, Iowa hasn't scored until the eighth or ninth inning. A 3-3 start against Michigan and Nebraska is certainly a palatable start given recent program history, and the Hawks might be off to an even better start if not for playing from behind so much.
Overall, Iowa's record drops to 15-9, to go with the 3-3 conference mark. Iowa hits the road to Peoria for a midweeker against Bradley, which beat the Hawkeyes 7-0 this past Wednesday. The Braves are 15-8, coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Dallas Baptist. So...a W would be nice; another L would not.
After that, conference play resumes in grand fashion, as the Hawkeyes host defending B1G champion and 2013 College World Series participant Indiana from April 4 through 6. We'll have a series preview for that at the end of the week.