The Big Ten Tournament has been good to Iowa under Rick Heller and Thursday night Iowa tapped into a new vein of #Omahawkeye magic and rode it all the way to an upset win over the tournament top seed, Indiana. The Hoosiers not only won the Big Ten regular season title, they absolutely smashed Iowa when they played earlier this season, sweeping all three games and outscoring Iowa by a margin of 23-4.
Thursday was a different story, though. Iowa picked up the win thanks in large part to an absolutely dominant pitching performance from Cole McDonald, pitching maybe his final game in an Iowa uniform. McDonald has been strong for Iowa all season, but he saved his best performance for a game when Iowa needed it the most. McDonald threw eight innings and gave up just one run on five hits and one walk. He also threw eight strikeouts and had Hoosier hitters baffled all game.
For most of the game Iowa's batters couldn't do much to help out McDonald, as Indiana's Pauly Milto had a strong outing of his own, throwing six shutout innings. Iowa stranded batters in the first, third, fourth, and fifth innings, while Indiana left batters on base in the fourth and fifth. The Hoosiers finally broke the deadlock in the sixth, though, taking a 1-0 lead after a triple and an RBI single to lead off the inning. McDonald got a double play and a fly out to halt the damage, though, and Iowa's batters finally got fully on track in the seventh.
Ben Norman led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Brandon Sher. Tanner Wetrich laced an RBI single into the outfield that scored Norman and tied the game at 1-1. Mitchell Boe walked and Justin Jenkins singled to load the bases. Chris Whelan hit a sacrifice fly to give Iowa their first lead of the game at 2-1 and Izaya Fullard added an RBI single to make the score 3-1. Norman added another insurance run for Iowa in the seventh when he scored off an error.
After McDonald pitched 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth innings, Grant Leonard took over for the ninth inning. Leonard got the first two batters out with a strikeout and a fly out before giving up a single, a wild pitch, and another single that allowed Indiana to cut the Iowa lead to 4-2. Indiana brought the tying run to the plate, but a quick fly out ended that threat -- and kept Iowa in the winner's half of the bracket at the Big Ten Tournament.
Of course, winning is something that Iowa has been very good at as an 8-seed in the Big Ten Tournament:
That's 100% true -- Iowa won one game as a 8-seed in 2014, three as an 8-seed in 2016 (when they made the Big Ten Championship Game), and now has one win this year. No other 8-seed in the Big Ten Tournament has won a game. Hopefully Iowa can keep adding to that record this week. GO 8-SEED AWESOME.
Iowa will play the winner of the Minnesota-Nebraska game (Nebraska is leading 8-1 as of this writing) on Thursday night at approximately 9 PM CT (BTN). Iowa needs to win the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament -- knocking off the tournament's top seed is a great way to get a run like that started.