Hawkeyes Fall Short of Sweep, Take 2 of 3 from UC-Irvine

May 5, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – The odds are against teams trying to complete a sweep in baseball. Iowa is learning that the hard way, by living it.

The Hawkeyes won games Friday and Saturday against No. 18 UC-Irvine here at Banks Field. They were blown out, 15-4, in Sunday’s series’ finale.

Iowa captured its sixth series in a row but dropped the last game of each of the last three and now have fallen in the the final contest for the fourth time in its last five series.

“It’s been an unfortunate trend the last few weeks, where you take two on Friday and Saturday, and then come out and kind of lay an egg on Sunday,” senior Chris Whelan said. “It’s like losing the second game of a double-header after winning the first. You kind of feel like you lost both.

“The biggest thing is to not forget what we did here and what we’ve done the last six weeks, and that’s rally off big series’ wins.”

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According to MLBsweeps.com, only 27 percent of major league teams since 1961 have swept the more than 25,000 three-game series played.

The Hawkeyes (29-17 overall, 11-7 Big Ten) have fallen flat on Sundays, each one coming with a different scenario. Sunday, they pitched poorly beginning with starter Grant Judkins (4-6), who lasted only four innings, throwing 88 pitches and allowing three runs (two earned).

“Grant battled for us but did not have his good stuff, location wise or even the normal velocity,” coach Rick Heller said.

The bullpen did not give Iowa a chance. Duncan Davitt and Shane Ritter followed Judkins, and allowed six combined runs without recording an out. Trace Hoffman finished the fifth inning but not until yielding three runs of his own.

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The Anteaters’ nine-run frame put the game and sweep out of reach for the home team. They finished the game with 15 runs on 17 hits, seven of which went for extra bases, including three home runs.

The Hawkeyes also struggled at the plate. They managed just four runs on 13 hits, stranding nine men on base.

Despite the clunker on Sunday, Iowa continued climbing up the college baseball ladder. Baseball America wrote about its ascent after Friday’s win:

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With the victory, Iowa saw its RPI shoot up to 51. That’s a big jump for one game, and with another win this weekend, the Hawkeyes will undoubtedly feel good about where things sit heading into the final two weekends of the regular season.

Saturday’s victory raised the Hawkeyes up to No. 49 in the RPI. They’ve put themselves firmly on the bubble, going 18-7 since being swept by Indiana in the opening series of Big Ten play. They boast series wins against Irvine, Illinois (sweep), Oklahoma State and Nebraska, all teams Baseball America put in its latest NCAA Tournament projections.

Iowa knows it can’t control what happens with other teams that might impact its postseason fate. It must focus on its final seven games and continue doing what it has been.

“There is not shot at a regional if you don’t play well. Just being realistic with it, we have to play really well against anybody to have a chance to win. You saw that (Sunday). If you don’t, a good team like (UC-Irvine) is going to beat you up,” Heller said.

The Hawkeyes will be favored to top their final two conference opponents, Michigan State and Maryland, both of whom have losing records in the Big Ten, and their last non-conference contest against Western Illinois on May 14.

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