With another chance to make some Big Ten noise, Iowa started the weekend on the right foot.
The Hawkeyes pounced on Illinois starter Quinn Snarskis early and held on late, resulting in Friday’s 8-5 win over the No. 22 Fighting Illini at Illinois Field.
After putting up 13 runs in Wednesday’s win over Bradley, the Iowa offense kept humming right along. The Hawkeyes (15-8, 2-1 Big Ten Conference) scored seven of their eight runs before the fifth inning, punctuated by a five-run third that knocked Snarskis out of the game.
The first five hitters in the frame reached safely, highlighted by a two-run single from Robert Neustrom, a run-scoring double by Austin Guzzo and a RBI single via Kyle Crowl. Neustrom added a towering homer in the fourth to hand Iowa a 7-2 advantage.
That provided some breathing room for starter Nick Allgeyer, who got back on track after surrendering two early runs to the Fighting Illini (16-6, 3-1). The Hawkeye southpaw yielded seven hits and five runs (three earned) over 6 1/3 innings, also punching out eight.
He did serve up a two-run homer to Illinois slugger Bren Spillane in the sixth and eventually ran into some trouble in the seventh. Rick Heller has seen his relief corps struggle of late, but after Allgeyer reached 106 pitches and had the bases loaded in the seventh, the Iowa baseball coach turned to trusted bullpen arm Zach Daniels.
The Hawkeyes’ de-facto closer did his job — but not without some drama. Daniels wiggled out of the seventh-inning mess with a double play, then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by striking out Illinois’ Tyler Engel. Grant Leonard closed out the ninth for the save.
The Illini entered hot, having won eight of their last nine. But Iowa landed the first blow. The Hawkeyes and Brady Schanuel will try for the series win on Saturday at 3 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.