Iowa baseball grinds out series finale to complete sweep over Indiana

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — After 18 innings generated two ridiculous scores to kickstart Iowa baseball's final home weekend, baseball normalcy returned to Duane Banks Field Saturday evening. Throw in some mid-50s temperature better suited for college football gamedays, and runs were bound to be hard to find. 

Even with a series win already in hand, this was an important night to get a few Hawkeyes right. Crucial RPI implications remained in play as well, with the series finale determining whether Iowa took a substantial jump or a minimal one in its final regular-season slate. 

The Hawkeyes survived all Indiana had. 

A key early homer coupled with quality mound work all the way through, and the Hawkeyes continued to showcase a winning product when victories are of most importance.

Iowa completed the series sweep over Indiana with a 2-1 win, and will head to the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed. That sets up a 9 a.m. opening-round matchup with No. 6 seed Penn State on Wednesday at Charles Schwab Field Omaha.

As riveting as Iowa's two Indiana trouncings were, Big Ten Tournament tension is lurking next week — and it will likely look a lot like Saturday's victory. One last batch of high-leverage innings before postseason play certainly can't hurt, especially for two Iowa pitchers who desperately needed get-right outings. 

It started with Ty Langenberg, who tossed five scoreless frames after a rough start last weekend at Michigan State. He surrendered four hits and three walks, but struck out four and didn't let a single Hoosier get to third base. It continued with starter-turned-long reliever Connor Schultz, who's struggled mightily the last three weekends but found some stability Saturday. He allowed a long solo homer to Matthew Ellis but nothing else while punching out three over two nice innings.

It ended with Ben Beutel, who's been solid all season but had to navigate two tight jams Saturday evening. With Iowa clinging to its one-run lead, the southpaw hurler worked out of a two-on, no-out jam with three consecutive strikeouts. Indiana also loaded the bases in the ninth inning before Beutel wiggled out of things with a strikeout and flyout.  

Requiring just a small offensive burst to match the pitching prominence, the Hawkeyes first turned to a familiar source. Keaton Anthony extended his team-leading homer total to 14 with a first-inning solo blast, which fought through the cool Iowa air and landed just beyond the right-field fence. Iowa added a crucial insurance run in the fifth on a bases-loaded wild pitch that eventually countered the Ellis blast. 

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.