As the (very very very) played-out statement goes, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." The Iowa baseball team is going to be hoping that applies to them as well because nothing good happened for them in Vegas over the weekend, as #23 UNLV swept them in lopsided fashion. We entered the series thinking that this was Iowa's biggest test of the season and Iowa... did not pass that test. They got thumped by the Rebels at the plate and on the mound.
FRIDAY: #23 UNLV 4, IOWA 0
Iowa's Vegas excursion started with a loss, but there were at least some positives to take away from the game. Nick Allgeyer gave up five hits and three runs in the first two frames to put Iowa behind 3-0, but he settled down after that. He held UNLV to one hit and no runs over the next four innings; for the game he went six innings and gave up three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out five. It wasn't a bad outing overall -- he did enough to keep Iowa in the game if the bats could wake up.
Unfortunately, those bats never exactly woke up. For a second straight game, Iowa failed to score a run (by way of comparison, Iowa was only shut out three times all of last season) and mustered only six hits. That said they had some chances -- they stranded eight men on base, including runners in scoring position in five different innings (the most costly being a bases loaded, two out opportunity in the fourth). Austin Guzzo went 2/3 at the plate, while Tyler Cropley went 1/2 with a pair of walks. Robert Neustrom, Lorezno Elion, and Matt Hoeg contributed the other Iowa hits. Unfortunately, all six hits were singles; if you can't get extra base hits, you need a lot of singles to score runs, and Iowa wasn't able to string together hits in this one.
SATURDAY: #23 UNLV 11, IOWA 2
For a while, Saturday's outing seemed like it might be a much-needed bounce-back performance for Iowa. The game was scoreless through the first two innings and while UNLV took a lead with a run in the bottom of the third, Iowa bounced back with a run apiece in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. That fourth-inning run ended a 21-inning scoreless streak for Iowa and the 2-1 lead they took in the fifth was the first lead they'd had in a game since beating UAB 11-3 back on March 3rd. Through five innings, Iowa starter Brady Schanuel had been pretty sharp, giving up just one run on four hits.
Then the sixth inning happened and the bottom fell out. Schanuel gave up a double to start the inning and walked the next batter; the leadoff batter advanced to third on a wild pitch. Schanuel was removed after that, but UNLV was only getting started. 15 UNLV batters went to the plate in the sixth as the Rebels scored eight runs on seven hits and a walk; Iowa pitchers also hit two UNLV batters, threw two wild pitches, and had a passed ball. Including Schanuel (who started the inning), Iowa used five pitchers. Oh, and Rick Heller got tossed for arguing balls and strikes. So yeah: the sixth inning was a bad bad bad bad bad inning for Iowa. They were down 9-2 after that point; needless to say, a miraculous rally did not materialize.
Iowa's bullpen had been a pretty reliable force for Iowa this season, but they got lit up by UNLV in this game. Grant Leonard, Jack Dreyer, Nick Nelson, and Derek Lieurance combined to give up nine runs (all earned) on six hits and two walks, while striking out none. Kole Kampen did stop the bleeding with two shutout innings in which he gave up one run and struck out two, but the damage was long since done by that point.
It was a grim day on the mound for Iowa, but it was equally hapless at the plate. Iowa managed just three hits for the game and drew no walks. The fact that they were able to scrape together two runs with that offensive performance is a minor miracle. Lorenzo Elion went 1/3 with an RBI double, while Austin Guzzo went 1/4 and knocked in Iowa's other run. Robert Neustrom added Iowa's other hit on the day.
SUNDAY: #23 UNLV 13, IOWA 3
The goal for Iowa on Sunday was to at least salvage something from the weekend and end their three-game losing streak. Once again, that did not happen. Like Saturday, the game started out pretty well for Iowa -- UNLV went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first off a solo home run, but Iowa responded with runs in the second and third to take a 2-1 lead. UNLV put up two in the bottom of the third before Iowa tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth.
Then the sixth inning happened and the bottom fell out -- again. Just like Saturday, UNLV put together a monster inning in the bottom of the sixth to blow the game wide open and turn the remaining innings into a formality. UNLV scored five runs on five hits in the sixth and also benefited from an error and a wild pitch by the Hawkeyes. Just like that a 3-3 game turned into an 8-3 game. UNLV added insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh (3) and eighth (2), but those runs were wholly unneeded after the sixth-inning outburst.
Once again, it was the bullpen that blew up for Iowa, not the starting pitching. Cole McDonald wasn't great -- he gave up three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings, while striking out three and walking one -- but he wasn't terrible and he kept Iowa in the game. Zach Daniels replaced him and while he had been very good this year (no runs allowed in 8.2 innings of work), he got rocked by UNLV -- four hits and five runs in 1.1 innings. Only two of the runs were earned, but it was still a bum outing for a guy who had been Iowa's best reliever. Kyle Shimp also strugged, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk while getting just one out. And Ben Probst gave up two runs (none earned) and a hit in his one inning of work. Iowa's bullpen had been one of the more reliable aspects of this team prior to this weekend, so let's hope this was just one bad weekend and they can bounce back. If Iowa's bullpen is going to be this leaky, it's going to be a long season.
Iowa had their best game of the series at the plate in this one, although that isn't saying much since they still only scored three runs in the game. They had nine hits, though, including doubles from Neustrom and Mitchell Boe. Three Iowa players had two-hit games, with Hoeg and Neustromg going 2/4 and Boe going 2/3. Cropley, Kyle Crowl, and Kace Massner got the other Iowa hits.
Jeremy astutely flagged some warning signs for Iowa last week despite their 8-2 start and the issues he noted -- a lack of extra base hits and a more error-prone defense -- definitely played key roles in their sweep this weekend. Iowa managed just two extra base hits all weekend and had four errors, with the errors on Sunday being especially costly. The bright spot for Iowa from the weekend was probably the starting pitching -- none of Allgeyer, Schanuel, or McDonald were lights out, but they were solid and kept Iowa in all three games. But that went for naught because everything else around them fell to pieces for Iowa. Hopefully they can bounce back soon, but they have a difficult game with Missouri State coming up in mid-week and the Big Ten opener with Indiana is looming on March 23-25.
NEXT: Iowa returns to action on Wednesday with a neutral-site game in Kansas City, MO against Missouri State (4 PM CT). They welcome Evansville to Iowa City for a three-game series this weekend.