Iowa began their six-game homestand a week ago at 11-14 and in serious need of some wins to get things rolling in the direction this season. Five wins in six games later, I think it's safe to say "mission accomplished." After thumping Milwaukee to start the homestand and taking two of three from Illinois over the weekend, Iowa finished off things off a sweep of Air Force, 9-7 and 22-2. The wins improved Iowa's record to 16-15 overall, marking the first time all season that the Hawkeyes have had a record above .500. Iowa also moved into the Top 100 of the RPI (#93), so while there's still a lot of work to be done, they've certainly got this season headed in the right direction now after a very rocky start.
At first, it didn't look like this series was going to go well for the Hawkeyes -- Air Force got off to a hot start on Tuesday and jumped out to a 6-0 lead through 5.5 innings. Then the script got flipped. Over the next 11.5 innings, Iowa outscored Air Force by a combined score of 31-1. THIRTY ONE TO ONE. There were five different innings in that stretch where Iowa scored at least four runs. Iowa's bats came alive and turned Air Force into roadkill. Oh, and they had a guy (Mason McCoy) hit for the freaking cycle on Wednesday night -- not too shabby.
Game One: Iowa 9, Air Force 7
Calvin Mathews got bumped from his usual weekend start after repeated struggles, but he had a decent outing in his first mid-week outing. Mathews lasted four innings and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four. That's not spectacular by any means, but considering that Mathews entered the game with an 0-3 record and a 7.36 ERA and that he had pitched into the fourth inning just three times all season, we'll count this outing as a step in the right direction. Mathews was replaced by Ritter, who gave up four runs on six hits and a walk, digging Iowa that aforementioned 6-0 lead.
But then the Hawkeye bats erupted -- relatively speaking. Iowa scored five in the bottom of the six, highlighted by a Robert Neustrom triple and an Eric Schenck-Joblinske double. But Iowa only had three hits in the hitting; they were assisted by a pair of Air Force errors, a balk, and three walks. Iowa kept up the offensive pressure in the seventh inning, plating four runs thanks to a Tyler Peyton groundout, a Daniel Moriel single, and a Joel Booker single. Iowa had four hits in the inning, plus a walk and (another) balk. Iowa gave up a run on two hits and an error in the ninth, but they had enough cushion to withstand it.
Peyton went 3/5 with a a double, a run scored, and an RBI, while Booker led Iowa with two RBI on 1/3 hitting. The hits were scattered around the entire roster in this game, as nine different Iowa hitters combined to record 11 hits. They also drew seven walks.
Tuesday night's game was an all-camouflage affair, too:
Trailing 6-0 in the 6th, Iowa scored 9 times to defeat Air Force 9-7 Tuesday. See you at the ballpark at 6 tonight! https://t.co/ZceBS0HLk6— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 13, 2016
Game Two: Iowa 22, Air Force 2
The second game of the series was a rout from the word go, as Iowa scored four runs on four hits, drew three walks, and batted around. The damage could have been even worse, too, as Iowa left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first after scoring four runs. They scored a run apiece in the second and third innings, two in the fourth, and closed out with seven in the sixth, four in the seventh, and three in the eighth. In only one inning (the fifth) did Iowa fail to score a single run.
With a performance like that it's certainly a total team effort, although amusingly only eight different Iowa batters recorded a hit in this offensive orgy (versus nine the night before). Four different Iowa players recorded multiple-hit games, but the clear leader of the pack was JUCO transfer Mason McCoy, who had himself a game to remember: 5/7, three runs scored, six RBI. And, oh yeah, he hit for the cycle, becoming only the second Iowa player to ever do so (Jason White in 2007 was the only other Iowa player to pull off that feat). How'd he pull it off? Let's break it down.
1st at-bat: (1st inning) McCoy gets on base via a bunt single; he later scores after a John Barrett single.
2nd at-bat: (2nd inning) McCoy blasts a triple and scores Daniel Moriel
3rd at-bat: (4th inning) McCoy lines a double into left field, which again scores Moriel; McCoy later scores on a wild pitch
4th at-bat: (5th inning) McCoy strikes out :-(
5th at-bat: (6th inning) McCoy smashes a two-run home run, scoring himself and (again) Moriel
6th at-bat: (7th inning) McCoy ropes another double into left field, scoring Nick Roscetti and Corbin Woods
7th at-bat: (8th inning) McCoy strikes out :-(
Whew. What. A. Game. McCoy did everything you could ask for -- and then some -- last night.
Daniel Aaron Moriel also had himself a very fine game -- 3/5, four runs scored, and six RBI. (He also got hit by a pitch twice.) Iowa's usual offensive heroes -- Booker and Nick Roscetti -- also did pretty well, with Booker going 2/5 with two runs scored, an RBI, and two stolen bases. Roscetti went just 1/6 at the plate, but he did score twice and knock in three runs. Barrett was Iowa's other two-hit man, going 2/2 with a pair of RBI. And shoutout to Mitchell Boe who went 0/2 but managed to score three runs and get an RBI thanks to drawing four walks. As a team Iowa grabbed 16 hits and walked a staggering 15 times as a team. They turned that into 22 runs, but it probably could have been much worse, given that Iowa also left 15 men on base in the game.
Cole McDonald got the start for Iowa and he improved his record to 3-1 by pitching four shutout innings and giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five batters. Sam Lizarraga, Nick Allgeyer, Luke Vandermaten, and Kyle Wade combined to pitch the remaining five innings and Iowa actually took a shutout into the ninth before Wade gave up two runs on three hits.
Some of the many highlights from Wednesday's 22-2 Hawkeye win: https://t.co/MGrNkDNGKX— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) April 14, 2016
NEXT: Iowa leaves the cozy confines of Iowa City for a four-game road swing, beginning with three games in Bloomington against Indiana (18-13 overall, 4-2 Big Ten).