Iowa baseball salvages series with offensive breakout
Even with a month left in the season, there is little room to add to the loss column for the Iowa baseball team.
That's why Sunday's game mattered perhaps more than a game in late April should. Iowa entered on the verge of being swept by Michigan — having lost 8-4 Friday and 12-9 Saturday — and the Hawkeyes sat at 11th in the Big Ten Conference out of 13 teams, further adding to the wonder if this team is going to miss out on the Big Ten tournament.
Thanks to an offensive breakout though, Iowa (18-19, 7-8 Big Ten) salvaged the series Sunday with an 8-3 win over No. 21 Michigan (28-10, 8-3) at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes totaled the eight runs on 16 hits, including a three-run, four-hit fifth inning and a two-run, four-hit sixth to break a 2-2 tie. They added one more run in the seventh.
"Really proud of how the guys came out and played today," Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. "After a couple days where things didn’t go our way and we didn’t play all that well, to bounce back like we did today with that kind of effort was tremendous. We got back to playing Hawkeye baseball."
Joel Booker paced the offense for Heller's club as the senior center fielder went 4-for-4 with two RBIs. Tyler Peyton, Nick Roscetti, Daniel Aaron Moriel and Corbin Woods all added two-hit performances.
Iowa proved to be effective with a patient and selective approach at the plate, evidenced by five straight batters who reached base in the fifth on three hits and two walks. All of this despite Michigan bringing the contest to a screeching halt numerous times. The Wolverines made several trips to the mound either by the catcher, pitching coach or head coach Eric Bakich, but the slow pace didn't keep the Hawkeyes from pushing across runs.
Iowa can also thank Nick Gallagher, who pitched seven innings out of the bullpen. The sophomore right-hander (5-2) allowed one run on six hits while striking out a career-high seven batters. Starter Calvin Mathews was pulled after giving up two runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Gallagher continues his rise on the mound with 10 appearances this season, three of those as a starter. He made nine appearances all of 2015.
"I don't really focus on my role that much," Gallagher said. "I started out as a starter then went to long relief, then was a starter the last two weeks, but it's all the same. When you come in, you want to pound the zone and execute pitches."
Three Big Ten series remain for Iowa: at Ohio State May 6-8, home against Michigan State May 13-15, and at Penn State May 19-21.
With seven conference teams on the plus or negative side of a .500 winning percentage, that will be a crucial slate.
"We need to go out and try to win them all, and keep getting better," Heller said. "We’ll hit the stretch run and keep fighting to make the Big Ten tournament."