Personally, I find it hard to think about baseball when the temperatures are hovering around zero and there's over a foot of snow on the ground outside. But MLB players are reporting to spring training and the college baseball season got underway this past weekend, too. So I guess baseball is back. Iowa's season got underway this past weekend at the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic in Kissimmee, Florida (probably warmer and less snowy down there) with three games against George Mason, Pitt, and Marshall. Iowa went 2-1 at the Sunshine State Classic, ending the weekend with a pair of wins after an ugly loss on Friday.
FRIDAY: George Mason 7, Iowa 2
Iowa's season got underway on Friday but it was a rocky beginning for Rick Heller's crew. After a pair of scoreless innings, Daniel Brooks hit an RBI triple and A-10 Preseason Player of the Year Logan Driscoll hit a 2-run home run to give George Mason an early 3-0 lead. Iowa clawed a run back with an Austin Martin HR in the top of the fifth, before Grant Leonard walked in a run in the bottom of the fifth to give George Mason a 4-1 lead. Iowa got another run back with an RBI double from Tanner Padgett in the top of the sixth, but that was the extent of their offensive production on the day. Greg Popatak drilled a 3-run double in the bottom of the seventh to add some insurance runs for George Mason and make the score 7-2.
At the plate, Iowa's bats struggled to get hits when they needed them the most -- they went 0/10 with runners in scoring position. They had two on and nobody out in the fourth and seventh innings, but were unable to get any runs out of those innings. Austin Martin went 2/3 at the plate with a HR. Izaya Fullard went 2/4 at the plate as Iowa's only other hitter with multiple hits. Mitchell Boe, Chris Whelan, Tanner Padgett, and Ben Norman each racked up a hit for Iowa.
Iowa had even more struggles on the mound. Starter Cole McDonald had a season debut to forget, lasting just four innings and giving up four runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out four. Walks were a consistent problem for Iowa -- they gave up a whopping nine walks to George Mason (more than the six hits they also conceded). McDonald, Leonard, Kyle Shimp, and Derek Lieurance each gave up two walks, while Hoffman had one free pass. All in all, a forgettable start for Iowa baseball in 2019.
SATURDAY: Iowa 10, Pitt 1
Fortunately, things perked up for Iowa on Saturday. Iowa jumped on the Panthers early with five runs in the first three innings. Ben Norman got things started for Iowa with a 2-run home run in the second, then added a 2-RBI double in the third to make it 4-0 Iowa. Then Norman scored on an RBI single from Tanner Wetrich in the third to make it 5-0 Hawkeyes. Iowa added a run in the fourth and fifth innings to boost their lead to 7-0, before scoring two more in the seventh and another in the eighth to give themselves a 10-0 lead. Pitt got a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, but that was it for their offensive production.
Iowa scored 11 runs on 10 hits (and also drew nine walks), with top offensive honors going to Norman and Padgett. Norman went 3/4 with four RBI and three runs scored and was a triple short of hitting for the cycle; his offensive output early in the game was key to Iowa establishing an early lead. Padgett wen 3/4 as well with an RBI and a run scored. Mitchell Boe went 1/3 with a double, but also drew three walks. Matthew Sosa went 1/3 with three RBI and drew a walk. Tanner Wetrich, Austin Martin, and Izaya Fullard also added a hit apiece for Iowa.
Jack Dreyer gave Iowa a strong start on the mound, throwing 5.1 shutout innings and striking out 10 batters while giving up just two hits (and four walks, which is less good). Trace Hoffman and Shane Ritter combined for two shutout innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Ben Probst gave up the only Iowa run of the game in his 1.2 innings of work, but he also had two strikeouts.
SUNDAY: Iowa 10, Marshall 0
Iowa wrapped up the weekend by dominating Marshall in a 10-0 victory. Chris Whelan scored on a wild pitch in the first to give Iowa an early lead, before Iowa put up a crooked number with three runs in the second. Whelan hit a 2-run double to start the scoring in that inning, then finished it himself by scoring on a throwing error. Iowa added two more runs in the fifth off a Matthew Sosa RBI bunt single and Mitchell Boe triple, before adding two more in the seventh on a Tanner Wetrich solo home run and another wild pitch. Iowa wrapped up the scoring with two more runs in the eighth, courtesy of a Mitchell Boe RBI walk and a Zeb Adren RBI single.
Much like Saturday, Iowa's lineup took advantage of pitchers that struggled to find the strike zone, as the Thundering Herd gave up 14 (!) walks to Iowa batters (Wetrich alone drew three walks, while Boe, Norman, and Jenkins each drew two walks apiece). Couple that with 11 hits and it's not too hard to see how Iowa's batters scored 10 runs. Whelan was Iowa's leader at the plate with a 3/4 performance with a double, two runs scored, and two RBI. Wetrich went 2/3 with a home run and three runs scored. Boe, Fullard, Adreon, Padgett, Matt Berst, and Sosa each had a hit for Iowa as well.
Of course, Iowa didn't need a whole lot of production at the plate with how well Grant Judkins was pitching yesterday. Judkins threw six shutout, no-hit innings and struck out 11 (while waking three). He was unhittable on Sunday, which was great to see. For his dominance, Judkins was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week by the conference:
Grant Judkins of @UIBaseball is the #B1GBaseball Pitcher of the Week after shutting down Marshall over a six hitless innings on Sunday, setting a career high with 11 strikeouts and helping Iowa to a 10-0 victory pic.twitter.com/N2KRaivjhi
— Big Ten Baseball (@B1Gbaseball) February 18, 2019
Cam Baumann and Jason Foster each threw scoreless innings in relief for Iowa, while Davitt Duncan gave up Marshall's only hit of the game, but did strike out the side in his one inning appearance. One hit, no runs, and just three walks against 16 strikeouts? There was absolutely nothing to complain about with Iowa's pitching performance on Sunday.
NEXT: Iowa heads to Hawaii (!) for a four-game series this weekend (Thursday-Sunday).