IOWA CITY, Ia. — Finally, after weeks of weather chaos and scheduling nightmares, Duane Banks Field landed the atmosphere it deserved. A packed house, a flawless sky — the only game in town with a quality foe in town. This is college baseball at its finest.
Michigan strutted into Iowa City boasting a 20-game winning streak, second-longest in the country. The Wolverines’ schedule wasn’t the toughest to start conference play, but six-plus weeks of flawless baseball is impressive in any capacity.
Iowa didn’t waste the opportunity.
Southpaw Nick Allgeyer continued his season-long dominance with another ace-like outing, and the Iowa offense whittled away against Wolverines starter Tommy Henry before breaking through. The final product: Hawkeyes 4, Michigan 2.
Winning streak dead.
“That was a lot of fun,” first baseman Matt Hoeg said.
Following a lackluster series loss at Minnesota last weekend, Iowa (25-13, 8-6 Big Ten) needed to recalibrate ahead of a monumental slate. The Hawkeyes entered Friday with a .793 home winning percentage since 2015. Perfect timing with one of the nation’s hottest teams up next on the schedule.
The offense looked dormant in Minneapolis, but it broke through with one in the third and three in the fourth for a 4-0 lead. Kyle Crowl’s RBI double started the fourth, and the Hawkeyes followed with an ambush.
Two-out RBI knocks from Hoeg and Mitchell Boe kept the line moving. Henry eventually exited after only 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
“I liked our at-bats,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “I thought we had a good approach against Henry. We had a pretty good feel for how he was going to try to pitch us, and our guys didn’t try to do too much.
“They did a good job of going the other way, especially with the way the wind was blowing. That’s what you needed to do regardless, and they did a good job of it. I was really happy with our approach offensively.”
Allgeyer took that run support and ran with it. The Iowa southpaw punched out eight, walked just two and surrendered only five hits over seven strong innings.
Friday marked Allgeyer’s 10th straight quality start, as his ERA dropped to a measly 2.18.
“Every Friday, I tell myself it’s going to be my easiest day of the week,” Allgeyer said. “Every other day, you’ve got to put hard work in and get better for the next start.
“So sticking to my routine and going out there, Friday is the most fun day. It’s the easiest day of my week. It’s what I try to enjoy every week and give the team a chance to win.”
Michigan, after pushing one across in the fifth, had a bit of eighth-inning life against closer Zach Daniels, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs. But the right-hander wiggled out of that mess and blew by the Wolverines in the ninth.
“Zach didn’t have his greatest command, but it was good to see him come back out in the ninth and dial it in and pound the strike zone,” said Heller, who watched his closer pick up his fourth save this year. Threw a lot of really good changeups in those innings too.”
Quite a start to what could be an emphatic, resume-building weekend. A win Saturday would now give the Hawkeyes a crucial series victory against one of the conference’s finest, adding more life to a hopeful regional berth.
As the postseason inches closer, more nights like Friday could push Iowa over the edge.
“A lot of fans, ninth inning, they were on their feet. It was crazy.” Hoeg said. “We knew Michigan coming in had a big win streak, and it was going to be a huge game for us in the race for the Big Ten.
“It was something you live for as a baseball player.”
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.