Following a sweep of Penn State (15-34, 3-21 in B1G), the Hawkeyes (33-18, 13-9) are heading to a school-record fifth consecutive B1G Tournament appearance in the midst of the best four-year stretch in school history. Iowa joins Michigan and Indiana as the only three B1G teams to make an appearance each of the last five years.
After dropping the ball in a series loss at Northwestern, the Hawks took care of business this time around with a sweep of last-place Nittany Lions in the regular season series finale. It was the first B1G sweep of the year for Iowa. They finished 20-6 at Duane Banks Field, the second most wins at home in school history (won 22 in 1977).
Game One: Iowa 3, Penn State 1
In just his fourth start of the season, freshman P Bailey Dees shut down the Hawkeyes for five solid innings. Up to this point, Dees has struggled with a 1-2 record and upper 5.00 ERA. Iowa had chances drawing four walks and three hits, but were unable to manufacture runs early on.
Fortunately for the Hawks, Dees counterpart in Iowa SP Nick Allgeyer was even better. Allgeyer tossed seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, two walks and striking out six in the no-decision. The Hawks could not have asked more of their ace this season with 12 quality starts in 14 appearances. He finished the season with a 5-4 record and 2.50 ERA, striking out 86 in 90 innings. It was the fifth most K’s in a season for Iowa.
Following Dees exit, the Hawkeyes quickly took advantage of RP Taylor Lehman in the sixth. A throwing error allowed 3B Matt Hoeg to reach base before ultimately scoring after 2B Mitchell Boe drew a bases loaded walk for a 1-0 lead.
Penn State tied the game against RP Zach Daniels in the eighth, but Iowa bounced right back in the bottom frame. LF Ben Norman hit an opposite field RBI double to lead 2-1. Then 1B Chris Whelan singled in Norman for another run. It was more than enough for Daniels (6-1, 2.49 ERA in 24 appearances), who shut down PSU in the ninth for his sixth win of the season. Iowa is 20-4 when Daniels pitched this year.
Game Two: Iowa 9, Penn State 1
The Hawkeyes welcomed back SP Cole McDonald (3-1, 3.33 ERA) from injury, slotting him in for Brady Schanuel who has not pitched past the fourth inning since early-April. Despite a predetermined pitch count, McDonald made his 65 pitches count. The junior struck out seven in four innings, allowing one hit and two walks in four innings of shutout ball.
The Iowa offense continued to sputter in the early innings, but heated up in the fifth with five runs. C Tyler Cropley drove in two of his five RBI in the fifth with a single for a 2-0 lead. Hoeg kept it going with a two run single of his own before DH Austin Guzzo scored on a passed ball for a 5-0 lead.
The Nittany Lions were able to scratch for one run in the sixth against RP Grant Judkins, who continued what McDonald started in relief. Judkins (1-0, 4.54 ERA) earned his first win of the season after going five innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and sitting down eight hitters.
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It was as close as PSU would get as the Hawks scored four additional runs in the seventh. With bases loaded, SS Kyle Crowl scored after a pitch hit Whelan. Cropley drove in the other three runs on a double to right-center field.
Game Three: Iowa 8, Penn State 4
The Hawkeyes started off much quicker in the finale, scoring five in the second. Hoeg scored the games first run after Judkins reach on a fielder’s choice, moving Crowl to second. Crowl scored on a double from DH Lorenzo Elion for a 2-0 lead. RF Robert Neustrom singled in two and Whelan scored on a throwing error by RF Curtis Robison.
Iowa freshman SP Jack Dreyer has been sharp since joining the rotation in place of an injured McDonald a few weeks ago. In his two prior weekend starts, Dreyer allowed one earned run in 10 innings and collected two wins. He continued to impress on Saturday, allowing two runs on two hits and striking out six. Currently he is averaging over 10 K’s per nine innings in his three weekend starts.
Leading 5-2, the Hawkeyes continued to score runs in waves with three in the sixth. PSU scored one run in the seventh and another in the ninth to be in striking distance, but Daniels was able to get SS Logan Goodnight to ground into a double play to end the threat in the ninth and send PSU packing.
MVP of Penn State Series:
- Iowa Starting Pitchers (Allgeyer, McDonald, Dreyer): 17 innings pitched, 8 hits, 2 earned runs, 5 walks, 19 strikeouts, 1 win, 1.06 ERA
On Deck: B1G Tournament
May 23-27 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament begins Wednesday when the No. 6 seed Hawkeyes are slated for the first action against No. 3 Michigan at 9 A.M. on the Big Ten Network. The championship is on Sunday.
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Photo courtesy of Big Ten Network
Here is how Iowa fared against other teams in the B1G, heading into the tournament starting with Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State, who are in their bracket.
- 3 Michigan: won series 2-1 at home
- 2 Purdue: did not play
- 7 Ohio State: won series 2-1 at home
And the other side of the bracket:
- 1 Minnesota: lost series 2-1 on the road
- 8 Michigan State: did not play
- 4 Illinois: won series 2-1 on the road
- 5 Indiana: split series 1-1 at home
There is no doubt Iowa can run the table and repeat as B1G Tournament champs. Under head coach Rick Heller, the Hawks have already been to back-to-back B1G Championships, winning last year and losing by a run to the Buckeyes in 2016, going 7-2 in the past two years.
Currently, the Hawks are sitting on the NCAA bubble to make their 3rd appearance in the Regionals in the last five years (all during Heller’s tenure). Making it to the B1G Championship should safely put them in, but winning will be an automatic bid.
They will rely on Allgeyer to start it off right against Michigan. Against the Wolverines, the Iowa ace pitched seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and fanning eight for the 4-2 win.
*Follow Sean Neugent on Twitter: @SeanNeugentHN