Iowa coach Rick Heller discusses the Hawkeyes' sluggish 6-5 win over Grand View on Tuesday. Dargan Southard/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — On an afternoon when the Iowa baseball team wasn’t its sharpest, Jake Adams swooped in with one big boom.
The burly first baseman, whose power has already significantly buoyed the Iowa lineup, launched a seventh-inning, go-ahead solo home run off Duane Banks Field's light pole in left-center, saving the Hawkeyes on Tuesday in a 6-5 triumph, over Grand View of the NAIA.
“We had a couple mistakes today — big mistakes — but we stuck with our approach,” said Adams, who nearly had another homer in the fifth on a shot that was ruled foul down the left-field line. “We got a couple big hits here and there, and then I got that big hit at the end to go up by one.”
The late rally was needed, in large part, because Lou Yacinich’s bunch showed up ready to go. Although Grand View’s yearly enrollment is about 30,000 students fewer than its mighty in-state counterpart, the Vikings (12-9) punched first with a three-run second and clawed back in the seventh after Iowa (14-9) grabbed a 5-3 advantage.
Grand View had at least one runner reach base in six of the first seven innings and quickly hopped on freshman starter Grant Judkins, who labored through two frames in yielding six baserunners and three runs (two earned).
"There were a lot of lessons today — one being, ‘You better show up, no matter who you play,’” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “And Grand View showed up and played really well. Mixed their pitchers in and out, kept us off-stride. For the most part, they threw a lot of strikes with their secondary pitches.
“They had us off-balance all day.”
The Hawkeyes busted through for four in the third, spearheaded by Robert Neustrom’s three-run triple with two outs. Grand View intentionally walked Adams in front of the Iowa right-fielder and brought in a left-handed pitcher to counter the southpaw-swinging Neustrom.
“When I saw they were doing that to Jake,” Neustrom said, “I just said, ‘Oh, that’s a big slap to my face.’ And that just gives me all the more motivation to get up there and get a great hit.”
The Hawkeyes needed another after Grand View scraped together two runs in the seventh on a walk, an error, a single and an RBI fielder’s choice. Again rejuvenated after a late rally, the Vikings appeared poised to steal a huge win if Iowa continued to let them hang around.
But Adams took care of the building ulcer.
The blast was his ninth this season through 23 games, currently good enough to lead the Big Ten. With 31 regular-season contests remaining — plus any additional postseason games — Adams is right on pace to tie Iowa’s single-season home run record of 22 set by John Knapp in 1986.
When you don’t bring your best, a solidified power threat like Adams' can carry even more weight.
“Having a piece like that in your lineup,” Neustrom said, “not many teams can get that.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.