Play the Iowa baseball team (29-18, 10-9 B1G) at home and they are nearly unbeatable. Play the same team on the road and they become suddenly vulnerable.
Such is the case this past weekend when the Hawkeyes lost the series to woeful Northwestern (16-29, 6-18) in front of small crowds, averaging less than 500 for attendance at Rocky Miller Park in Evanston, Illinois. The Wildcats took the first two of the three game set as Iowa moved to 8-10 on the road.
Game One: Northwestern 7, Iowa 6 in 10 innings
The first game of the series saw Iowa down 5-3 heading into the final at-bat. The Hawkeyes held a late rally to knot it up at 5 a piece before falling in extra innings.
Iowa ace SP Nick Allgeyer had another quality start, his 11th of the season. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, three runs (two earned), striking out four and walking one. Pitching into the seventh, he allowed a home run and single before getting a strikeout and ground out. He exited with the no decision and game tied at 3-3.
The Hawks found themselves down in the eighth inning after one of their best players RP Zach Daniels replaced Nick Nelsen. Nelsen walked the first batter before being removed. Daniels allowed the bases to be loaded following a single and intentional walk. The Wildcats scored on uncharacteristic issues by Daniels: he threw a wild pitch scoring a run, hit a batter and balked in another run to trail 5-3.
Heading to the ninth frame, Iowa found themselves right back in it following some clutch hitting. RF Robert Neustrom led off the inning with a single. In his only at-bat, Austin Guzzo made it count with a two-out single to put runners at the corners. CF Justin Jenkins tied it up with a two-run single.
In the 10th, leadoff hitter Chris Whelan singled and moved into scoring position on DH Grant Judkins sacrifice bunt. 3B Matt Hoeg drove a ball to right, scoring Whelan. However, Iowa failed to score any more runs in the inning and left the bases loaded.
RP Grant Leonard was in line for the save. He promptly struck out the first batter before walking Kyle Burnett Jr. and allowing a single by Leo Kaplan, the last hitter in the Wildcats lineup. Leadoff man Jack Dunn hit a walk-off single up the middle, driving in the winning two runs to earn Leonard his first loss of the year.
It was only the third loss of the season for Iowa when out-hitting the opposition.
Game Two: Northwestern 4, Iowa 0
It was hard for either team to get in rhythm following a two-hour weather delay due to lightning. Still, the Wildcats were able to find enough holes to push some runs across.
Northwestern was able to get on the board in the first with a 2-0 lead against SP Brady Schanuel. The Iowa starter has struggled this year, especially of late and once again could not make it out of the third inning. RP Grant Judkins took over in the third inheriting two outs and two runners on. Judkins allowed a single that scored the third run of the game, credited to Schanuel.
Nelsen entered for Judkins in the sixth with bases loaded and no outs. Northwestern LF Leo Kaplan hit a sacrifice fly to Neustrom that plated a run, but Nelsen locked down and was able to induce a ground ball inning-ending double play. Nelsen pitched well, going three innings of perfect ball and three strikeouts.
Related In HawkeyeNation Forums
The Hawkeyes could not muster anything offensively as Hoeg led the way going 2-for-4. SS Kyle Crowl and 2B Mitchell Boe each collected a hit, while Boe also drew two walks. Iowa was shutout for the fourth time this year.
Schanuel (5-7, 6.06 ERA) took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits in 2 2/3 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
Game Three: Iowa 10, Northwestern 7
Under head coach Rick Heller, the Hawkeyes always seem to put the past day behind them and focus on the game at-hand. Facing the threat of a sweep against one of the worst B1G foes, the Iowa offense awoke with 14 hits and seven walks.
The bottom three of the Iowa batting order ignited a much-needed spark as Jenkins, LF Ben Norman and Boe went a combined 7-for-14 with four RBI and four runs. In the second inning, Norman singled to left field to drive in Hoeg for the first run of the game. Norman scored another run following a throwing error by C Jack Claeys.
While Iowa plated two in the second, the Wildcats scored three in the third. Northwestern gained the lead against Iowa SP Jack Dreyer following two errors by the defense.
The Hawkeyes struck back in the next frame with two runs. They added one in the sixth and three in the seventh to take an 8-3 lead. Northwestern scored a run in the bottom of the seventh, but Iowa added two insurance runs in the eighth to lead 10-4.
Iowa RP Cam Baumann quickly worked through two innings, but was unable to close the game out. The freshman reliever struck out Kaplan to begin the ninth, but the Wildcats were able to hit two singles off Baumann. With two outs, Heller let Baumann face one more batter. Jack Claeys hit a home run to right field to pull within three. Daniels entered and struck out DH Connor Lind for the one-out save, his fifth on the season.
Both Neustrom and Hoeg homered in the game for the Hawks.
Dreyer (4-2, 4.21 ERA) finished with the win, pitching five innings. He allowed four hits, walked two, allowed three unearned runs and struck out six, tying a career-high. The freshman was thrust into the starting role last weekend when Cole McDonald went down due to injury. In two games, Dreyer is 2-0, allowed zero earned runs in 10 innings, struck out 12 and walked five.
MVP of Northwestern Series:
- 3B Matt Hoeg: 6-13, 3 RBI, 4 runs, 1 walk, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 1 stolen base, 3 Ks
News on Cole McDonald:
Heller says it looks somewhat promising Cole McDonald will be back this weekend against Penn State. Currently, he is on some medication for inflammation in his arm.
Related In HawkeyeNation Articles
May 31, 2018 — Hawkeye Baseball Looking to Future, Hoping for Facility Upgrades
Coach Rick Heller has established Iowa baseball as a factor in the Big Ten. Can the program take the next step?
With the way Dreyer is pitching, McDonald could slide into the Saturday rotation spot. Schanuel, who has held down the second spot in the rotation all season, would be a good fit for long relief with his strikeout ability. This year, he is averaging over 11 k’s per 9 innings.
The Hawkeyes head back home for the series finale with last-place Penn State (13-31, 3-18) coming to town. Iowa is 17-6 at home this season while PSU is 6-11 away, including 1-5 in B1G.
The Nittany Lions played Xavier last weekend, but in the prior two B1G series, they were swept at home by Northwestern and took two of three against Michigan State (18-28, 9-11).
B1G Tournament Scenarios:
One week ago, things were looking promising Iowa could end up as high as the two seed. Today, not so much. Still, eight teams make the B1G Tournament so the Hawks should punch their card this weekend.
Currently they sit as the seventh seed at 10-9, while Maryland and Michigan State are behind them at 9-11 each.
As it stands, the Hawks would likely face either Michigan or Purdue and neither team is as good as their records indicate due to soft schedules. As great as it would be to see Iowa move up, it might be the best outcome to stay as either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed. Otherwise they could face Ohio State, Illinois or Indiana in the first round, all more dangerous teams despite records.
After falling to NW, the Hawks now have their work cut out for them to get to the NCAA Regionals.
- 1 Minnesota (16-4): at Rutgers (7-14)
- 2 Michigan (15-5): at Purdue
- 3 Purdue (14-6): Michigan
- 4 Ohio State (13-8): at Michigan State (9-11)
- 5 Illinois (13-8): at Michigan
- 6 Indiana (11-9): Maryland
- 8 Maryland (9-11): at Indiana
**Follow Sean Neugent on Twitter: @SeanNeugentHN