With the number #18 team in the country coming into town, Iowa needed to play its best baseball, and for two of their three games, they did exactly that. Iowa won the first two games of the series, but once again failed to win on Sunday. That frustration continues, but let’s focus on the positives: Iowa has now won six series in a row, they improved to 16-4 at home, they are now inside the top 60 of the RPI (#57), and they are 5-1 on the season vs Top 25 teams. Mix all of those things in with the fact that Nebraska got swept by Northwestern, moving Iowa to third place in the conference standings, and this weekend could not have gone a whole lot better.
GAME 1: IOWA 6, UC IRVINE 3
Cole McDonald took the mound against the #18 team in the country and promptly retired the first eight batters that he faced. Iowa gave him support from the get-go after Chris Whelan led off the inning with a single, advanced to third on an Izaya Fullard single, and scored on a McCaffery ground out. In the third, Izaya Fullard put Iowa up 2-0 following his fourth home run of the year.
(Ed. Note: if you're wondering why Fullard's nickname is "Meat Patty," Dargan Southard's article for Hawk Central offers a bit more explanation, but mostly it just seems like a case of baseball players bein' baseball players. -- RB)
McDonald ran into trouble in the top of the fourth after allowing two singles and a walk. With the bases loaded, Iowa escaped the jam by turning a double play. In the bottom of the fifth, Izaya Fullard launched his second home run of the game and his fifth of the year. The two-run bomb gave Iowa 4-0 lead.
The Anteaters got on the board in the seventh, scoring two runs on two hits. That was it for McDonald, who finished the game with five strikeouts. This was McDonald’s fifth straight quality start. Trace Hoffman entered in relief and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Iowa added two more runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to a double from Austin Martin and a bases-loaded walk to Grant Judkins. Hoffman stayed in the game to pitch the ninth with a 6-2 lead and finished things out after a giving up a run.
Fullard, McDonald, and Heller on Iowa's win Friday against the Anteaters: pic.twitter.com/SgqbGaMPRN— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 4, 2019
GAME 2: IOWA 1, UC IRVINE 0
Iowa Starter Cam Baumann walked a tight rope for five innings in game 2, shutting the Anteaters out while allowing seven hits, walking one, hitting two, and striking out three.
UC Irvine starter Trenton Denholm was perfect through the first four innings and kept the Iowa bats quiet for most of the game. He threw the entire game for Irvine, striking out eight and holding Iowa to seven hits and one run. The lone run for the Hawkeyes came in the fifth inning after Tanner Padgett launched a ball to right field that dropped after the right fielder lost it in the sun. That was Iowa’s first hit of the game. Lorenzo Elion pinch ran and scored after Tanner Wetrich smoked a ball off of the pitcher's hand.
That lone run in the fifth was all that Iowa would need. Jason Foster pitched the sixth and seventh innings without allowing a hit and Grant Leonard closed things out in the ninth with his 12th save of the year.
With the lack of offense in the game, please direct your attention to these beauties:
GAME 3: UC IRVINE 15, IOWA 4
Another Sunday with a chance to sweep, another loss for the Hawkeyes. UC Irvine was in must-win mode, as they started their closer, Taylor Rashi, for the first time all season. Rashi has been unhittable this season, having not allowed a run in 26 innings. Iowa got to him early, however, scoring in the first inning. Chris Whelan led off the game with a single, Izaya Fullard followed that with another one. Ben Norman drove in a run with a double, but Fullard was thrown out at home.
The Anteaters tied it up in the second on a solo home run. In the third, Grant Judkins gave up three straight hits to start the inning, giving Irvine a 2-1 lead. Things fell apart for Iowa in the fifth. Grant Judkins was pulled after struggling and Duncan Davitt entered in relief. The Anteaters scored nine runs in the inning, including a three-run home run. Irvine scored at least one run in every inning except for the first and the seventh.
Zeb Adreon finished the game 2-4 while Brendan Sherr went 3-4 with two runs scored. Connor McCaffery finished the day 3-3 with an RBI.
The pitching stats for Iowa in this one were ugly. Grant Judkins had his worst start of the season, allowing three runs on six hits in four innings. Duncan Davitt gave up four runs without recording an out and Shane Ritter allowed two runs without recording an out. Trace Hoffman gave up three runs in one inning of work and yeah… you get the point.
Iowa now sits in third place in the conference, 3.5 games behind Michigan with six to play. Michigan finishes the year against #19 Indiana (2nd in B1G) and Nebraska (4th in B1G). Indiana also plays Rutgers. Iowa finishes the season against Michigan State and Maryland, two teams that will most likely miss the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State is 5-12 in conference play while Maryland is 8-10. Iowa needs to win five of six to have any chance at winning the conference outright, and even if they do that it might not be enough.
NEXT: No midweek action this week, as Iowa is off until the weekend, when they host Michigan State (16-29 overall, 5-12 B1G) for their final three home games of the year.