IOWA CITY, Iowa - It’s baseball, Trenton Wallace said.
“The game is kind of cruel at times,” the Iowa left fielder said. “And it can come back to get you.”
Illinois’ 6-2 victory over the Hawkeyes on Sunday at Duane Banks Field gave the Illini (18-19) the weekend series and left Iowa (22-16) with a bit of a dent in their NCAA tournament resumé.
The Hawkeyes were outscored 20-3 in the final two games of the series after rallying for a 5-4 win in Friday’s game.
“We just got beat today,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said.
Illinois’ offense was a constant annoyance. The Illini had 16 hits, but only three went for extra bases.
“They had 16 hits, but I think 12, 13 of them were ground balls that found holes,” Heller said.
Iowa got its only runs in the third inning. Izaya Fullard’s two-out single brought in Wallace and Dylan Nedved to tie the game at 2. It appeared the Hawkeyes were going to get more on Zeb Adreon’s bases-loaded fly ball to left field, but Nathan Aide snagged the ball against the wall to end the inning.
The Hawkeyes would get just two hits over the final six innings. Iowa batters struck out 13 times after posting 16 strikeouts in Saturday’s 14-1 loss.
“We were not sharp offensively,” Heller said. “You hate to see that happen at this time. They had been going pretty good.”
Illinois took control of the game with a four-run fifth inning. Ryan Hampe’s two-run home run put the Illini up, 4-2, then Taylor Jackson’s single scored Cam McDonald and Aide.
That inning put more pressure on the Hawkeyes’ offense.
“Baseball, especially with hitting, the worst thing you can do is try harder,” Heller said. “It’s ‘see the ball, hit the ball’ at this point.”
Iowa starter Cam Baumann (4-5) allowed 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs. Drew Irvine was charged with the other two runs.
“They outpitched us, they outhit us,” Heller said.
That was not a good combination, certainly in the closing weeks of the season when every win helps and every loss hurts.
The Hawkeyes play a three-game series at Northwestern next weekend before closing with a three-game series at Michigan State.
“Yeah, it hurts,” Wallace said. “Looking forward, we’ve got to keep taking care of business, keep competing. That’s all we can do from here on out.”
Iowa came into the series having won 17 of its last 23 games.
“We went cold for the first time in the last six, seven weeks,” Heller said. “They had a good day, a really good day. And we didn’t.”
“That’s the game of baseball sometimes,” Wallace said. “It comes back and flips the switch once in a while. Some teams can take care of a bigger team in the league. That’s just how baseball is.”