A week after winning their 6th series in a row by taking two of three from #18 UC Irvine, the Hawkeyes hit a speed bump. Iowa jumped into the top 25 for the first time all year and immediately lost two of three to Michigan State, a team that is 19-31. The slip- up could not have come at a worse time, as Iowa now drops to 6th in the Big Ten standings and officially cannot win the Big Ten regular-season title. It also dealt a major blow to their hopes of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid, as their RPI crashed from 58 entering the weekend to 79 today.
GAME 1: Iowa 7, Michigan State 5
The series opener could not have gone much better for the Hawkeyes. After Cole McDonald rolled through the 1st inning, Iowa opened up the bottom of the 1st with back to back singles from Chris Whelan and Izaya Fullard. Austin Martin was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Zeb Adreon. Adreon stepped to the plate and launched his second home run of the year, giving Iowa a 4-0 lead.
Here's how Iowa took a 4-0 lead in the first inning tonight! pic.twitter.com/sntLyCt4Hw— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 10, 2019
Michigan State got on the board in the 3rd, scoring two runs on a double. They would add another run in the 5th to make it 4-3. Iowa loaded the bases in the bottom of the 5th but failed to turn it into anything. In the 6th, Adam Ketelsen entered in relief of McDonald. Michigan State immediately did damage, tying the game following an Iowa error and a double. Ketelsen was able to wiggle out of the inning without allowing another run. McDonald’s final line: five innings, three earned runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts. This was the first time in his last eight starts that he did not go at least six innings.
In the bottom of the 6th, Iowa finally got on the board again following an Izaya Fullard RBI single, his third hit of the game. Austin Martin followed with a bloop single that scored another run, making it 6-4 Iowa.
Trace Hoffman pitched a scoreless 7th for the Hawkeyes and got the first two outs of the 8th inning before giving way to Grant Leonard. Leonard gave up an RBI double, cutting the lead to 6-5 before getting the final out. In the bottom of the 8th, Chris Whelan got things going with a double and advanced to 3rd on Izaya Fullards 4th hit of the day. Whelan would score on a balk and give the Hawkeyes a 7-5 lead heading into the 9th.
In the final inning, Grant Leonard closed things out, picking up his 13th save of the season and tying the Iowa single-season saves record.
Leonard, Adreon, and Heller on Iowas win Friday in the series opener against Michigan State: pic.twitter.com/J6JHFS3Ktf— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 11, 2019
GAME 2: Michigan State 9, Iowa 4
Game 2 of the series started with a rain delay, and when the game finally began it looked like someone forgot to tell Iowa. Michigan State jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning after a leadoff double and a two-out single. Iowa led off the bottom of the 1st with a double of their own but failed to make anything of it. Michigan State added three more runs in the third after they loaded the bases. The runs scored on a Cam Baumann balk, a Cam Baumann wild pitch, and a failed attempt to turn a double play. Did I mention it looked like no one told Iowa the game had started?
Cam Baumann failed to make it out of the 4th inning, giving way to Jason Foster. Foster got out of the 4th without allowing Michigan State to add to their lead, and in the bottom of the inning, Iowa finally showed some signs of life. Izaya Fullard got the bats going with a double, and Austin Martin followed with an RBI triple. Martin then scored on a Tanner Padgett ground out, cutting the lead to 4-2. Iowa added another run in the 5th after Ben Norman doubled and scored on a Michigan State error.
From there it was all Michigan State. The Spartans scored one run in the 6th, two in the 7th, one in the 8th, and one in the 9th to take a 9-3 lead. Iowa scored a run in the bottom of the 9th after Ben Norman ripped his second double of the day which scored Connor McCaffery.
The Iowa pitching staff had a rough day. Cam Baumann went 3.1 innings, giving up four runs on five hits. Iowa would use five pitchers to get through the final 5.2 innings. Kyle Shimp was removed from the game before recording an out due to injury. The staff ended the day with seven walks and two hit batters.
GAME 3: Michigan State 7, Iowa 5
In the rubber match, Iowa again turned to its Sunday starter Grant Judkins who was in search of his first win since April 13th. In what was essentially a must-win game for the Hawkeyes, Judkins was fantastic. He threw six innings, allowing one run on five hits, and struck out seven. After his worst start of the year vs UC Irvine, Judkins bounced back and gave Iowa a great chance to win this game. Unfortunately, the bullpen had other ideas.
Before we go on, we have to mention the best thing about game 3. Mitchell Boe, just a few weeks removed from a scary collision (that resulted in three broken bonesi in his face) made his return, sporting a SWEET mask.
Iowa jumped out to a 2-0 lead after scoring runs in the 3rd and 4th innings. Chris Whelan gave Iowa the 1-0 lead with a single in the 3rd, scoring Ben Norman. Austin Martin scored in the 4th on a Michigan State error. The Spartans cut the lead in half in the top of the 5th after Iowa failed to turn a double play.
Iowa added two more in the bottom of the 5th after loading the bases to start the inning. Izaya Fullard singled off of the pitcher to score Boe, giving Iowa a 3-1 lead. Austin Martin added another on a SAC fly to make it 4-1 but Iowa could not add any more.
The Hawkeyes would keep a 4-1 lead until the 7th inning, which is when things got ugly. Trace Hoffman entered the game in relief of Judkins, and after retiring the first batters gave up an infield single, a walk, and another single. Hoffman would hit the next batter, loading the bases. The following batter for the Spartans cleared the bases with a double to give Michigan State its first lead of the game at 5-4. Grant Leonard entered for Hoffman and gave up another run before finishing the inning.
In the top of the 9th Michigan State added another run to make it 7-4. Iowa showed life in the 9th following a one-out double from Boe. Wetrich followed the double with a walk, giving Iowa runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. Chris Whelan failed to move the runners over, but Iowa got a run an error from Michigan State on a Fullard grounder. That was all Iowa could muster, losing 7-5.
There wasn’t much good that came out of this weekend, but it was great to see Mitchell Boe return to the field on Sunday. He finished the game 2-4 with a double and two runs scored.
As for the rest of the weekend: NOT GREAT! Iowa dropped its first series since March 24th to one of the worst teams in the conference. This not only ended any chance that they had at winning the Big Ten regular season (that was a long shot anyway) but it dropped them to 6th in the conference. Iowa also continued their weird trend of not being able to win the final game of the weekend. They have now lost Game 3 in five of their last six series.
Iowa closes out the season with a series at Maryland, who is currently 10th in the conference but only a half game out of making the tournament. Maryland has struggled recently, dropping six of their last eight, but you can bet that they will be ready to go this weekend with a chance to make the Big Ten Tournament on the line.