Before Wednesday night, Iowa had not beaten a Division I team outside of a weekend series since St. Patrick's Day, when it beat Houston Baptist 7-2. That more-than-a-month-long streak was broken Wednesday night, as the Hawkeyes scratched and clawed for a 4-3, extra-inning, walk-off win over Northern Illinois.
Freshman right-hander Nick Gallagher got the nominal start in Iowa's pitch-by-committee effort, and gave up one run (earned) over 2 1/3, recording two strikeouts. Connor Grant was first to relieve Gallagher, and surrendered two runs (both earned) in 2 2/3.
Iowa first got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, as Kris Goodman led off with a double, advanced on a wild pitch, and later scored on a John Barrett double-play groundout. DH Eric Schenck-Joblinske then hit a two-out solo shot to, at that point, put Iowa ahead 2-1.
Iowa trailed 3-2 in the top of the sixth, when Brandon Shulista relieved Grant. Shulista, Josh Martsching, and Luke Vandermaten thereafter combined two allow only two hits and a walk in six innings.
Nonetheless, the Huskies were three outs away from continuing the Hawkeyes' mid-week woes, leading 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Jake Mangler--the hero of Iowa's walk-off win versus Northwestern last Friday--led off the inning with a double. A Goodman strikeout and a Taylor Kaufman gorundout later, Mangler remained at second base with Iowa down to its last out. Enter Dan Potempa, the senior DH pinch-hitting for Barrett, who delivered a single to left field, scoring Mangler to tie the game at 3-3.
Vandermaten walked the leadoff batter in the NIU tenth, but stranded that runner at third, inducing two groundouts after a sac bunt. The Hawkeyes went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the tenth. The Huskies returned the favor in the top of the eleventh. Then it was up to Mangler to start things off again, which he did with a single to lead off the bottom of the eleventh. Goodman and Kaufman followed with base knocks to load the bags with nobody out. Pinch hitter Grant Klenovich struck out looking, but the watch-and-wait philosophy paid off for Schenck-Joblinske, who drew a walk to force in the winning run.
The win brings Iowa's record to 27-11 overall, remaining alone in second place at 10-2 in the conference. In addition to trying to keep pace with Illinois for the conference title, the Hawkeyes are only two games ahead of fourth place, with Ohio State and Maryland both capable of catching Iowa this weekend.
Nebraska, Iowa's foe this weekend, enters at only 6-6 in conference, but boasting an impressive 30-13 record overall. The Huskers have non-conference series wins over BYU, Loyola Marymount, Florida Gulf Coast (sweep), and Texas (also a sweep, impressively), plus a split with Cal State-Fullerton. In conference, the Huskers are haunted by two extra-inning losses at home to Ohio State, and being swept at Maryland. More on Nebraska to come in the preview. Suffice to say now that saying they are 7th in the conference does not do them justice, and this is a big series coming up for Iowa.
Meanwhile, enjoy some highlights from the NIU game:
VIDEO: Highlights from Iowa Baseball's Walk-Off Walk Victory in Extra Innings over Northern Illinois http://t.co/Ip5AvvqsYh— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 23, 2015