Hawkeyes coach Rick Heller breaks down Iowa’s schedule and chance at another regional appearance. Dargan Southard/Hawk Central
Iowa’s dormant offense woke up just in time.
Punctuated by Ben Norman’s two-run walk-off single, the Hawkeye baseball team scored three runs over the final two innings to upend Toledo, 4-3, in Friday’s season-opener at the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series in Kissimmee, Fla.
The story through seven frames was two costly defensive errors — one by right fielder Robert Neustrom and one by left fielder Tanner Wetrich — that led to three unearned Toledo runs. The Hawkeyes (1-0) had done little against Rockets starter Michael Jacob, who yielded just five hits and an unearned run through seven innings. A disappointing loss seemed imminent.
But Iowa had one final surge.
Neustrom atoned for his error with a long solo homer in the eighth, bringing the Hawkeyes within a run, 3-2. Iowa then bombarded Toledo reliever Luke Schaefer in the ninth with a walk and four straight singles (pinch-runner Trenton Wallace was thrown out at home in between).
The final knock came from the leadoff hitter Norman, who popped one through the right side to score Lorenzo Elion and Matt Hoeg and avoid a bitter opening night.
Norman’s heroics made a winner out of reliever Grant Leonard, who had little impact last season but was clutch Friday in working out of a ninth-inning jam. The errors burned starter Nick Allgeyer early, but the southpaw was mostly decent in his return from Tommy John surgery.
He went five innings on 90 pitches, yielding four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.Iowa will look to clinch a winning weekend on Saturday against Oakland, with starter Cole McDonald heading to the hill. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m.
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.