Iowa completed a series sweep of a reeling Minnesota team (more on them below) on Sunday, 7-1. Much like they did the day before, Iowa pounced early (scoring four runs in the first two innings) and used that early lead to cruise to an easy victory. It was a testament to hyper-efficient offense -- Iowa's 7 runs came on just 7 hits. Although that's a little misleading, as the excellent patience of Iowa batters also helped them draw 7 walks from Minnesota pitchers.
Iowa's first run was a perfect example of the #Hellerball style that's guided their offense all season. Eric Toole drew a leadoff walk, then stole second base. Jake Mangler moved Toole to third base with a grounder and Tyler Peyton scored Toole with a sac fly. Zero hits, one run scored.
Timely hitting keyed a 3-run outburst for Iowa in the second inning. Daniel Aaron Moriel drew a walk and advanced to second on a Joel Booker single. Nick Day walked to load the bases. Moriel scored on a fielder's choice, then Mangler cleared the bases with a double. In all, Iowa scored 3 runs on 2 hits (and 2 walks) in the second inning and had a 4-0 lead after two innings. Ballgame.
Calvin Mathews added another strong pitching performance for Iowa, allowing one run and seven hits over five innings. He also tallied five strikeouts and just one walk. Nick Hibbing replaced Mathews and sealed the deal for Iowa with four shutout innings, good for his conference-best 6th save.
BONUS! Here are highlights of the win:
Take a look back at Sunday's Senior Day as Iowa swept Minnesota! http://t.co/VARi9c0Twm— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 11, 2015
Iowa locked up their seventh series win in Big Ten play (in seven attempts) with their win over the Gophers on Saturday and they locked up their fourth sweep in Big Ten play with this win. Needless to say, these Hawks are continuing to soar in pretty unprecedented territory.
Good news: Iowa's three-game sweep of the Gophers kept them in striking distance of a Big Ten conference championship.
Bad news: They didn't gain any ground in that championship hunt because goddamn Illinois also swept their opponent last weekend. That's 24 (!) wins in a row for the Illini, which is beyond preposterous at this point.
Iowa can finish no worse than 2nd in the conference, though, with Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State falling back to the pack a bit in recent weeks. The race for the #3 seed at the Big Ten Tournament ought to be very interesting -- no one wants to be on the same side of the bracket as Illinois right now. Ohio State ends the season with a three-game road series against a surging Indiana team (winners of 5 of their last 6), while Maryland ends the season with a three-game road series against a slumping Northwestern team (losers of 5 of their last 6), and Michigan State ends the season with a three-game road series against a completely imploding Minnesota team (losers of 8 in a row and 10 of their last 11).
Speaking of Minnesota... it's not looking good for them to make this year's Big Ten Tournament, hosted just down the road at Target Field in Minneapolis. Their sweep at the hands of Iowa -- on the heels of all their other recent losses -- have them on the outside looking in at the tournament bracket. They probably need a sweep of Michigan State this weekend to have any hope of making the BTT -- and even then they'd still need Nebraska to drop a few games as well.
Nebraska or Indiana figure to be Iowa's likely first round opponent in the Big Ten Tournament. You can take a gander at the bracket for that right here; Iowa looks increasingly locked into the #2 seed (barring a stunning collapse by Illinois this weekend), which sets them up for 1 PM CT first pitch on Wednesday, May 20.
Iowa in the Top 25
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Iowa's done with mid-week games against random opposition; they have a few days to rest and prepare for mighty... Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have endured a rough inaugural season in Big T en play (much as they have in several other sports) and are fresh off a three-game sweep at the hands of the unstoppable Illini juggernaut, but they were close in one of the losses (5-4) and scored 13 runs (!) in another game, including 6 home runs. Unfortunately, they conceded 28 (!!!) runs in that same game. No, really.
That is an actual baseball score.
Iowa wraps up the regular season with three games at Rutgers' Bainton Field in Piscataway, NJ this weekend (2 PM CT on Thursday, 12 PM CT on Friday, and 10 AM CT on Saturday).