Needing a late push to secure a must-have series win, the Iowa offense erupted just in time.
After dropping the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Purdue, the Hawkeyes broke open the nightcap with a four-run eighth. That propelled Iowa to a 6-3 series-clinching victory in the weekend finale.
A seventh-inning bullpen collapse gave Purdue a 9-5 win in Saturday’s opener, meaning the Hawkeyes (20-14, 7-5 Big Ten Conference) had no room for error if they wanted to leave West Lafayette satisfied. Every game carries at-large merit this time of year, and Iowa couldn’t afford a black mark on its resume.
Austin Martin and Ben Norman didn’t let it happen. In a 2-2 game with two in scoring position, Martin ripped a two-run single to left that handed Iowa a 4-2 advantage. Norman clobbered his fifth homer this season two batters later. A close contest was suddenly a comfortable affair.
That clutch outburst made a winner out of Grant Judkins, who was brilliant yet again in a pivotal spot. The Pella product surrendered seven hits and three runs over 7 2/3 innings, striking out three with two walks. The junior right-hander’s ERA sits at 1.95 — fifth best among Big Ten qualifiers.
Purdue (11-23, 5-6) didn’t manage much after taking an early 2-0 lead. Judkins yielded only two hits after the second inning as the Boilermakers spun their offensive tires.
Iowa flirted with a doubleheader sweep, fighting back from a 4-0 hole to take a 5-4 lead entering the seventh. Three RBIs from Tanner Wetrich, including a two-run blast, buoyed the rally. But the Boilermakers countered with five in the seventh off Duncan Davitt and Trace Hoffman.
Still, Iowa did enough on the weekend to keep plugging along. It’s now won three straight conference series heading into a four-game home week — one against Northern Illinois and three versus Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes’ RPI won’t take a huge jump after besting lowly Purdue, but Iowa keeps its at-large hopes intact with 20 games remaining.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard