Adam Mazur dazzles again as Iowa baseball delivers series-opening win over Purdue
IOWA CITY — More so now than any other point this season, Adam Mazur doesn’t require much to work his mound magic. A small boost from his offense — plus clean defense behind him — and Iowa’s unquestioned ace will take care of the rest.
Purdue was the latest Big Ten foe to endure Mazur’s mastery Friday at Duane Banks Field, where a desperate Iowa team kicked off another crucial weekend the only way it needed to. Mazur was his usual sharp self and got solid cushion early as the Hawkeyes cruised to a 5-2 series-opening win.
If Iowa (27-15, 11-5 Big Ten Conference) is to somehow revive its at-large regional chances, delivering emphatic performances each time Mazur takes the mound is imperative. With series wins needed — and likely some sweeps as well — the Hawkeyes can’t afford Friday no shows as the regular season winds down.
Every series must begin the way this one did.
"I know what I can do when I'm at my best," Mazur said.
Aside from some brief first-inning traffic and a little Purdue action in the ninth, Mazur carved up an overmatched Purdue lineup with little resistance. The Boilermakers (25-15, 6-8) put two of the game’s first three hitters on, then mustered just five additional baserunners the rest of the way.
If there was any indication how desperate Purdue was to sniff even the slightest scoring threat, the Boilermakers’ leading hitter Evan Albrecht laid down a one-out bunt with a man on in the third inning. It was one of only four times Mazur allowed a runner into scoring position after the first inning.
With MLB scouts littered throughout Duane Banks Field, Mazur yielded just five hits and one walk over 8 2/3 innings with three strikeouts on only 97 pitches. He retired 11 straight between the third and seventh innings, while still pumping upper 90s fastballs deep into the evening. The only time Purdue broke through was for two largely meaningless runs in the ninth.
"When you've got an ace and a frontline guy like that, this is what you want out of your Friday guy," Hawkeyes coach Rick Heller said. "That's always the goal, at least here."
Iowa’s only lingering doubt resided with its offense, which was soundly silenced in Tuesday’s loss to Illinois State and mustered just seven runs at Nebraska last weekend despite winning the series. The consistency drops off after Peyton Williams and Keaton Anthony. More firepower is needed beyond those two.
Which is why Friday’s five-run third offered even more positivity than just giving a strong starter significant run support. The move-the-line offensive outburst only featured one crushed ball — Williams’ deep double off the wall — but Iowa’s ability to string hits together all throughout the lineup was the most encouraging sign.
Of course, Williams and Anthony were still right in the middle of things. After Williams’ double put two in scoring position with one down, Anthony clubbed an RBI single to center to hand Iowa a 1-0 lead. A walk to Will Mulflur preceded an Izaya Fullard RBI single, as Iowa had five straight reach with one down. Brendan Sher followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice before Ben Wilmes put the finishing touches on things with a two-out, two-run single to left.
Overall, the Hawkeyes sent nine to the plate and picked up five hits in the momentum-snatching third. Zeroes plastered the scoreboard everywhere else, but a five-run lead felt like 10 with the way Mazur dealt.
"We know up and down our lineup, everyone can contribute," Fullard said. "We know what kind of group we are. We have to drive pitcher's pitch counts up and find different ways to get on base. That really showed today. The whole lineup today were really tough outs."
The Hawkeyes have now won Mazur’s last four starts, outscoring league foes 19-4 in those contests. A slew of issues may ultimately keep the Hawkeyes out of the NCAA Tournament, but the product Iowa and Mazur deliver in series openers isn’t one of them.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.