Hawkeyes coach Rick Heller breaks down Iowa’s schedule and chance at another regional appearance. Dargan Southard/Hawk Central
After an uninspiring showing in Saturday’s loss to Ball State, Iowa could’ve ended the weekend in New Orleans one of two ways. Let the defeat linger — or bounce back for a series win.
The Hawkeyes made their decision early, scoring four runs over the first two frames en route to Sunday’s 8-2 victory over New Orleans in the All-State Sugar Bowl Baseball Classic finale. The early run support was more than enough for starter Cole McDonald as Iowa exited the Big Easy with a 2-1 showing.
“That’s winning baseball,” Iowa associate head coach Marty Sutherland said on the postgame radio show. “We hadn’t really seen that too much here in the first five or six games, but it was great to see the guys able to bounce back and come through with a little bit better focus.”
A two-run double from Tyler Cropley in the first and RBI knocks from Justin Jenkins and Cropley in the second handed McDonald an early cushion, and the right-hander ran with it.
McDonald’s season-opening start against Oakland was rather unimpressive, but the 6-foot-1 junior rebounded with seven strong innings and no earned runs yielded. He surrendered just three hits and one walk while punching out four, only running into trouble in the fourth after a throwing error extended the inning.
“Cole was magnificent on the mound, and you feel great for him,” Sutherland said. “He obviously didn’t pitch very well last week, and for him to come out with that type of effort against a really good offensive team, you feel really good about that.
“Because of the way he goes about his business and how hard he works, you’re really happy for guys who can bounce back like that.”
The Iowa bats didn’t stop. The Hawkeyes added single runs in the fourth and fifth, then made one final impression before jetting out of town. Shortstop Kyle Crowl launched his second homer of the weekend in the ninth for some additional insurance.
The Hawkeyes now return to Iowa City for Tuesday’s home opener against Cornell at 4 p.m. The forecast looks promising right now — 59 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain, according to Weather.com.
“We’re going to have a second straight year with a home opener in February like we all planned,” Sutherland quipped. “… It’ll be a great chance to get some guys on the mound, especially some young guys.”
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.