Iowa Baseball Starts the Summer on a High Note

By Jeremy Karll on July 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm
Go Hawks, Go America

Iowa baseball took the field for the first time this week in preparation for the World University Games in August. The Hawkeyes played two of their three exhibition games at Duane Banks Field and will play in the NBC World Series next week. This past week Iowa hosted the Iowa Valley All-Stars and Red Top Sports, an amateur baseball team in Iowa.

Iowa Baseball 7, Iowa Valley All-Stars 3

Iowa started the week with an impressive 7-3 win over the All-Stars. With a different roster than what we saw just a couple of months ago, it was evident that Rick Heller came in with a plan to divide up playing time.

The most noteworthy changes were the replacements for Jake Adams, Mason McCoy and Nick Gallagher. Matt Hoeg moved from third to first, pushing Kyle Crowl over to third, JUCO transfer Tanner Wetrich started at shortstop and Brady Schanuel started for the Hawkeyes. Schanuel could be the Hawkeyes’ ace in 2018 with the possible departure of C.J. Eldred, so I’d expect him to see a lot of innings this summer.

Iowa jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning with the help of a Wetrich double in his first Iowa at-bat. Kyle Crowl and Mitchell Boe each hit a single in the ensuing at-bats. Crowl, who is trying to prove he can be more than a defensive replacement in 2018, also hit a RBI-single in the fourth and walked with the bases loaded in the fifth to finish 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs. Iowa added another pair of runs in the sixth inning when Tyler Cropley hit an RBI-single and Grant Judkins hit a sacrifice fly.

Iowa’s final run came from a pair of freshmen after Heller started to pinch-hit for his starters in the eighth inning. Zion Pettigrew hit a leadoff single, and Brett McCleary drove him home a couple of batters later. It will be interesting to see if Iowa’s freshmen get more playing time leading up to the University Games or if Heller will simply dedicate the eighth inning to them. Connor McCaffery was in the stands but did not play for the Hawkeyes because Iowa City West was still playing in the state tournament.

As Iowa racked up 11 hits against the All-Stars, its pitchers also shut down their hitters. Iowa held the All-Stars to four hits and recorded 12 strikeouts. Schanuel, a two-time MLB draft pick, had five of those strikeouts, as he gave up one hit and walk in three-shutout innings. Elijah Wood allowed two runs in three innings of work, while Sammy Lizarraga struck out his brother during his two-shutout innings.

The Hawkeyes also need to find a new closer since Josh Martsching graduated. It looks like Heller might go back to Zach Daniels, who started the 2017 season as Iowa’s closer. Daniels has a big arm but can be prone to allowing too many base runners and walks. That was again in evidence against the All-Stars. He didn’t have too much pressure in a non-save situation, but he still allowed a couple of hits, resulting in a run.

A couple of former Hawkeyes were also on the All-Star team, including last year’s captain Corbin Woods. Iowa played a clip of him hitting a three-run home run on senior day in Iowa’s insane comeback win over Ohio State -- and then Schanuel proceeded to strike him out. Woods was lifted for a pinch hitter later in the game and didn’t record a hit against his former team.

Iowa Baseball 11, Red Top Sports 6

While wearing the USA uniforms for the first time, Iowa baseball took down Red Top Sports, 11-6, on Thursday night. Heller went deeper into his bullpen in game two, but the offense stole the show again. Iowa recorded 15 hits, including four players with a multi-hit game, and scored multiple runs in four different innings.

Iowa loaded the bases with one out in the second inning after Tyler Cropley was hit by a pitch and Grant Judkins, who went 4-for-5, and Kyle Crowl singled. Lorenzo Elion, a JUCO transfer from Kirkwood Community College, started at shortstop in place of Wetrich. Heller's decision paid off as Elion hit a sac fly to score Cropley. Justin Jenkins followed with a two-run double before scoring from second on an RBI-single off Ben Norman's bat, giving Iowa a 4-0 lead. Norman and Jenkins each finished with two hits.

Due to a Robert Neustrom home run in the third and some clutch bases loaded hitting in the fourth inning, the Hawkeyes extended their lead to 7-2. With sophomore Eric Jagers on the mound to start the sixth inning for the Hawkeyes, Red Top Sports’ offense caught fire and drove in four runs. Iowa answered quickly when Neustrom hit his second home run to right field of the night to give Iowa a two-run lead. Neustrom finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBIs. Elion also knocked in his second run of the game on an RBI-single in the seventh. The Hawkeyes added two more runs in the eighth inning before closing the door on Red Top Sports.

Sophomore Derek Lieurance recorded the win for Iowa, as he allowed just two hits over two shutout innings. Overall, Iowa's pitching staff held Red Top Sports' offense in check by striking out 10 batters. Recording double-digit strikeouts for a second straight game helped Iowa limit the damage, despite giving up 12 hits.

Iowa now sets its eyes on the NBC World Series. The Hawkeyes take on Wellington (Kansas) Heat at 7 p.m. in Wichita, Kansas, on July 30.

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