Iowa found itself having a little deja vu on Thursday night, with senior third baseman Nick Day at the plate with runners on, needing a miracle with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Alas, Day popped out in foul territory, stranding two baserunners to end an 8-5 loss.
The game started promising enough, with Blake Hickman recording a scoreless first, and senior centerfielder Eric Toole playing the delayed version of back-to-back longball, with a leadoff shot (the first of his career) to follow Day's walkoff job from Wednesday. But things deteriorated after that. In a hurry.
Hickman served up a hanging curve to start the second inning, and the game was immediately tied 1-1. After recording two laborious outs, he then walked Michigan's #8 hitter, and gave up a bullet RBI double to Kendall Patrick, Michigan's lumbering, power-hitting nine-hole guy (go figure), to fall behind 2-1.
Iowa's offense entered a funk for the better part of the middle innings, recording nary more than a lone single after Toole's opening blast, while Hickman made an early exit, and Michigan continued to pound away at Ryan Erickson, who at least managed to eat innings and largely save the rest of Iowa's bullpen for a now do-or-die Friday outing.
But in addition to the pounding Michigan was putting on the ball, Iowa also performed a comedy of uncharacteristic errors, most contributing--more or less directly--to Michigan's offensive onslaught. Catcher Jimmy Frankos, completely rock steady this year by all accounts, had a passed ball on a borderline strike, allowing a baserunner to advance to second after two failed sacrifice attempts. Frankos later had an unforced throwing error after excessively hesitating with a Wolverine runner hung out to dry between first and second. He then had to exit after getting plowed at the plate on a sac fly, a shallow fly ball that Hawkeye leftfielder Kris Goodman did not position himself particularly well on to quickly release a throw. In addition to that play, Iowa's outfielders looked a little shaky on their angles all day, including a misplay of a shallow liner that the ordinarily stellar Toole allowed to drop to start an inning. Day also booted a tapper to third to start an inning. And another miscue that didn't hurt Iowa scoring-wise, but was somewhat indicative of how the night went, was backup catcher Daniel Aaron Moriel getting called for obstruction on what appeared to be an inning-ending flyout by Michigan's Carmen Benedetti. Woof.
But the Hawkeyes, as they always do, showed some life. Trailing 6-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, they unearthed four straight two-out hits: single, double, single, double, to cut the lead to 6-4, but Michigan had an answer at every turn, adding one each in the seventh and eighth, including one unearned, to lead 8-4. Michigan scored at least one run in six of nine innings; there were precious few clean innings for the Hawkeyes.
The Wolverines also tried to answer Iowa's odd defensive meltdown-ing, committing a two-base throwing error to start the Iowa ninth, and then a one-out fielding error at short. Moriel then laced an RBI single to left after attempting to walk to first following ball three. It was then 8-5 with two on. But Michigan dialed up their second baseman/closer Jacob Cronenworth, who struck out Eric Schenck-Joblinske, and induced Day's popout to end it.
NEXT: The Hawkeyes face Indiana in an elimination game tomorrow at 3:30 PM CT. It will again be televised by BTN. We'll have more on that game sometime before 3:29 tomorrow. Go Hawks. Hopefully Iowa's pitching and defense can shake off tonight's poor performance.