Iowa baseball trailed by 11. The Hawkeyes rallied to score 30 runs in series-opening win over Indiana.

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — Despite months as an offensive deathtrap thanks to prolonged wintry conditions that essentially wiped out all things spring, Duane Banks Field can put on its hitter-friendly face in a moment's notice. Crank up the heat, whip the wind out and watch absurdity take over. 

Then there's what happened Thursday night. 

What will go down as one of the wackiest games in Iowa baseball history saw the Hawkeyes uncharacteristically crumble with their ace on the hill, only to deliver a riveting revival that couldn't have arrived at a better time. The end product was a stirring 30-16 Iowa win, one that rescued the Hawkeyes' at-large hopes, for now, as they desperately try to secure a regional bid. 

The final reading was jarring enough, with Rick Heller's Hawkeyes (31-17, 15-7 Big Ten Conference) scoring more than Kirk Ferentz's unit did in 10 games last season.

But how Iowa got there?

Expect those who occupied Thursday's home dugout to recount this night often in the years ahead. 

"That's why you keep playing," Heller said.

With Indiana (25-28, 10-12) owning a 13-2 lead before heralded right-hander Adam Mazur could even breathe, this looked like the first late-season dagger Iowa couldn't afford to absorb. Instead, the Hawkeyes dug in and delivered one of the most improbable offensive nights across college baseball.  

It started with a 10-run — yes, 10 — fourth that saw Iowa clobber three homers, including two from ninth-place hitter Kyle Huckstorf. The sophomore outfielder was dropped down in the order after struggling throughout Big Ten play, entering with just one long ball and 18 RBIs over 46 games, but Huckstorf countered with a night he'll never forget. He added a grand slam to account for a four-run fifth that gave Iowa the lead for good, before finishing the night firmly in the Big Ten record books. 

"This is going to stick with me forever," said Huckstorf, who set a conference record with 12 RBIs and tied another with six hits in seven at-bats. "Setting Big Ten records is going to stay with me forever and I'm going to take it until I die."    

And was it ever needed.

Mazur has picked up his Iowa teammates countless times this season, often pitching the Hawkeyes to victories they didn't necessarily deserve. So it was only fitting his aluminum-waving teammates returned the favor in a pivotal spot. 

Long after Mazur departed having yielded the same number of earned runs he gave up in all of Big Ten play before Thursday (9), the Iowa bats were still obliterating fastballs and Indiana ERAs. Overall, the Hawkeyes plated 28 runs between the fourth and eighth innings — adding four in the fifth, three in the sixth, six in the seventh and five in the eighth — after the 10-run fourth. Jeff Mercer's trudges to the mound for Indiana pitching changes became sadder and sadder as the evening wore on. 

On top of Huckstorf's magical night, three other Hawkeyes — Ben Wilmes (3-for-4, 4 runs, 2 RBIs), Keaton Anthony (3-for-5, 3 runs, 3 RBIs) and Sam Petersen (3-for-6, 3 runs, 5 RBIs) — all each recorded three hits while driving in a combined 10 runs. The latter two went deep as well, taking full advantage of the prime hitting conditions that had balls jumping. 

"We talked as a group after the first inning," Heller recalled, "'Hey listen, Mazur has picked us a good chunk of the season. Today's the day the offense needs to pick him up. Just keep fighting and grinding at-bats out, and we can score some runs tonight too.'

"And we did." 

As impressive as Thursday's rally was, it only counts as one Iowa win — and the Hawkeyes must plow through the rest of the weekend without any costly letdowns. But surviving a Mazur dud with such an emphatic performance could easily ignite the closing push Iowa needs to go dancing again.

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