Michigan 2, Iowa 1: Iowa Offense Vanishes

By RossWB on May 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm
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Iowa had one hit. One. Hit. 

There's really not much more to say about the game, a 2-1 loss to Michigan in 10 innings in the opening contest of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament, than that. It's difficult -- verging on impossible -- to win a game where you record just one hit. 

That one hit came courtesy of Lorenzo Elion in the second, which moved Matt Hoeg, on base with a walk, to third. A fielding error by the Michigan first baseman allowed Hoeg to score, which was the only time an Iowa batter crossed the plate all game. Hell, Hoeg's appearance at third prior to scoring that run was the only time all game that Iowa had a runner in scoring position. 

Iowa couldn't even get baserunners for most of the game. In addition to mustering just one hit, they drew just three walks, and none after the fourth inning. In fact, Iowa ended the game with their final 20 -- 20!!! -- baserunners recording outs. That is simply terrible. Iowa's offense picked the worst possible time to go completely MIA.

Credit where credit is due, though: Michigan's pitching and defense were exceptional in this game. Michigan's starter, Tommy Henry, was forced to leave the game in the second inning after taking a hard-hit ball off the forearm, but the Wolverines didn't miss a beat. Alec Rennard replaced him and after giving up the hit to Elion, he was lights out. He lasted 5.2 innings and gave up no runs and one hit while walking one and striking out four. On the rare instances when Iowa batters did make good contact with the ball (which happened a few times), a Michigan defender was there to make a great catch or a quick throw to record an out. Jeff Criswell and William Tribucher finished the game off for Michigan, throwing three hitless shutout innings and striking out three batters. 

Unfortunately, Iowa's nonexistent offensive display wasted a pretty brilliant pitching performance from their own staff. Nick Allgeyer got the start and he more than held up his end of the deal with another quality start: 7 IP, one run, four hits, three walks, and nine strikeouts, tying his season-high. He gave up a home run to Michigan's Jesse Franklin (who also recorded the game-winning RBI with his 10th inning sacrifice fly), but other than that, Allgeyer was fairly excellent in this game. He was mowing down Michigan batters in the middle innings. 

Zach Daniels replaced Allgeyer and threw two scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth, giving up just one hit and striking out three. Unfortunately, his mojo ran out in the 10th -- after getting a leadoff fly out to start, he walked the next two batters on eight straight balls to give Michigan runners on first and second. Iowa turned to Nick Nelson to replace Daniels, but he gave up a hit on a bang-bang play at first place to load the bases. Franklin then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to give Michigan the walk-off win.

This loss drops Iowa into the loser's bracket; their next game will be Thursday morning at 9 AM CT against the loser of the Ohio State-Purdue game. It also means they have a long, hard road to go if they want to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champions; their margin of error is done and they'll likely need to win four games in three days just to make it to the Sunday final. Their NCAA Tournament at-large bids, apparently slim to begin with, took another blow with this loss, meaning Iowa's hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament likely rest on a now even more improbable run to a Big Ten Tournament title. 

But maybe we should set out sights a little lower in the short term: after the meager offensive display today, maybe we should just hope for, say, 2-3 hits tomorrow. That would be an improvement on what the offense produced today. Needless to say, Iowa's offense is going to need to wake up in a big, big way for this season to have any hope of continuing. 

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