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Iowa pitcher Cole McDonald breaks down the biggest difference between sophomore and junior year.

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After scoring a combined three runs through the series’ first two games, Iowa’s bats finally woke up to help salvage Sunday’s finale.

The Hawkeyes banged out eight hits and gave starter Cole McDonald plenty of run support, resulting in a 5-3 win over No. 25 Minnesota at Siebert Field. The win allowed Iowa (23-13, 7-6 Big Ten Conference) to avoid being swept in league play for the first time since May 2014.

The Hawkeyes got rolling in the fourth against Minnesota starter Sam Thoresen, grabbing a 1-0 lead on a fielding error. Iowa added at least one run over the next three innings. The Hawkeyes plated two in the fifth on RBI groundouts from Mitchell Boe and Chris Whelan, then added another in the sixth on Kyle Crowl’s run-scoring single.

Sporting a 4-1 advantage, Whelan connected for another blow on a solo homer to left — his second of the season. That was more than enough cushion for McDonald.

Although he hadn’t pitched since April 8 thanks to last Sunday’s cancellation at Nebraska, the Iowa junior was brilliant again. McDonald yielded just four hits and one run over seven frames, his third consecutive quality start.

With an improved mental approach, McDonald has transformed into another reliable weekend starter behind Friday night man Nick Allgeyer.

MORE: Cole McDonald's improved mental approach boosting Hawkeyes rotation

Minnesota did plate two in the eighth off Zach Daniels, but the Hawkeyes closer tossed a clean ninth to avoid any further trouble.

The Hawkeyes’ tough march through the Big Ten continues next weekend. After Wendesday’s midweek showdown with Milwaukee, Iowa will host Michigan for three at Duane Banks Field. The Wolverines will enter Iowa City on a 20-game winning streak.  

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 msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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