Michigan hands Hickman, Hawkeyes 'uncharacteristic' loss
MINNEAPOLIS – Sure, Michigan hit the proverbial cover off the baseball Thursday night.
But here's a list of things that happened to Iowa's defense during an 8-5 second-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament: A passed ball, a throwing error, Eric Toole misplaying a fly ball that fell for a single, catcher's interference, Nick Day fumbling a ground ball, two wild pitches.
In a normal Iowa baseball game under Rick Heller, none of that happens.
"It was an ugly day at the ballpark for us," Heller said. "Things didn't go as planned from the get-go. But as bad as it was — we gave up 13 free bases tonight, had zero (in Wednesday's first round) — we still fought back and gave ourselves a chance."
It was an uncharacteristic performance for the second-seeded Hawkeyes, who now need to win Friday's 3:30 p.m. elimination game against sixth-seeded Indiana to extend their week at Target Field.
"There's a lot of fight in this team," senior left fielder Kris Goodman said. "I definitely don't count us out."
That was evident in defeat, as Iowa rallied from a 6-1 deficit with three two-out runs in the sixth inning, then chipped away at an 8-4 margin in the ninth. But pinch-hitter Eric Schenck-Joblinske struck out, and Day popped out with two runners on to end the game.
From the get-go, it appeared Iowa would pick up exactly where it left off Wednesday, when Day's two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth beat Ohio State, 3-2.
Toole led off the Hawkeye first with a line-drive home run that barely cleared the 23-foot right-field wall. It was the Council Bluff native's 235th career hit at Iowa, but his first long ball.
However, Iowa's next 11 batters were retired by freshman right-hander Ryan Nuthof, who improved to 5-3 as his Michigan teammates began to mash baseballs.
"It's exciting, getting my first home run," Toole said. "Unfortunately, he settled in after that."
For the second time against the Wolverines this season, Iowa's top starter didn't have his best stuff.
Blake Hickman admitted he had "terrible" command of the strike zone in his 60-pitch, two-inning outing. The junior from Chicago gave up three runs (two earned), four hits and three walks in being beaten by a Big Ten team for the first time this season.
"It just wasn't my day. I feel like I let my team down today," said Hickman, who fell to 9-2 overall. He got a no-decision in Iowa's 11-5 loss in Ann Arbor on May 2. "I didn't compete how I usually do. I've just got to put it behind me."
Hickman can run his fastball up to 96-97 mph, but Michigan beat him with a patient, steady approach.
"I just think we love fastballs," said Michigan's Cody Bruder, who homered off Hickman to lead off the second inning. "He likes running it up there pretty high. We were just sitting on our pitch; he supplied a little power for us."
Iowa (39-15) yielded three unearned runs in the 3-hour, 48-minute game that Toole called "uncharacteristic" for his team. It was not lost on the Hawkeyes that the final margin was three.
Give Michigan credit. The third-seeded Wolverines (35-23) came here with a mission — to win this tournament for the conference's automatic NCAA berth, the best shot a team with an RPI of 69 has to reach a regional. And their talented, lefty-laden lineup hit the Hawkeyes' salty pitching staff hard — top to bottom.
Leadoff man Jacob Cronenworth had three hits (and later picked up the save). No. 9 hitter Kendall Patrick homered off reliever Ryan Erickson (four innings, 92 pitches) and had three RBI. Michigan generated 13 hits overall, including at least one in every inning against a staff that ranked ninth nationally in fewest hits allowed (7.57 per nine innings).
"We're not built to outslug people," Heller said. "Michigan, they were on. They were dialed in."
SCORING SUMMARY: MICHIGAN 8, IOWA 5
Iowa 1st: Eric Toole homers to deep RF. Jake Mangler strikes out looking. Tyler Peyton pops out to 1B. Kris Goodman flies out to CF. Iowa 1, Michigan 0.
Michigan 2nd: Cody Bruder homers to deep LF. Travis Maezes strikes out swinging. Kevin White flies out to LF. Johnny Slater walks. Kendall Patrick doubles to LF, Slater scores. Jacob Cronenworth singles to RF, Patrick to third. Jake Bivens walks, Cronenworth to second. Jackson Glines flies out to CF. Michigan 2, Iowa 1.
Michigan 3rd: Carmen Benedetti walks. Ryan Erickson relieves Blake Hickman. Benedetti to second on passed ball. Bruder grounds out to pitcher, Benedetti to third. Maezes singles to RF, Benedetti scores. White flies out to CF. Slater grounds out to 2B. Michigan 3, Iowa 1.
Michigan 4th: Patrick homers to deep LF. Cronenworth singles to LF. Bivens sacrifice bunts to 1B, Cronenworth to second. Glines singles to CF, Cronenworth scores. Benedetti grounds into 4-6-3 double play. Michigan 5, Iowa 1.
Michigan 5th: Bruder singles to CF. Maezes strikes out. Bruder to second on wild pitch, to third on Jimmy Frankos' throwing error. White flies out to LF, Bruder scores. Slater grounds out to second. Michigan 6, Iowa 1.
Iowa 6th: Nick Day flies out to RF. Toole grounds out to 1B. Jake Mangler singles to CF. Tyler Peyton doubles to RF, Mangler to third. Kris Goodman singles to RF, Mangler and Peyton score. Dan Potempa doubles down LF line, Goodman scores. Mac Lozer relieves Ryan Nutof. Michigan 6, Iowa 4.
Michigan 7th: Maezes reaches on 3B Day's fielding error, advances to second on wild pitch. White singles to RF, Maezes to third. Tyler Radtke relieves Ryan Erickson. White steals second. Slater fouls out to 3B. Patrick flies out to RF, Maezes scores, White to third. Cronenworth flies out to LF. Michigan 7, Iowa 4.
Michigan 8th: Bivens walked. Glines reaches on a ground-out to 2B, Bivens out at second. Benedetti flies out to RF. Bruder doubles down LF line, Glines scores. Maezes flies out to LF. Michigan 8, Iowa 4.
Iowa 9th: Goodman reaches second on throwing error by 3B Maezes. Potempa grounds out to SS. Roscetti reaches on fielding error by SS Bivens, Goodman to third. Daniel Aaron Moriel singles to LF, Goodman scores, Roscetti to second. Cronenworth relieves Matt Ogden. Eric Schenck-Joblinske strikes out swinging. Day fouls out to 1B. Michigan 8, Iowa 5.