Baseball rallies in ninth against Northern Iowa

BY RYAN YOUNG | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

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The streakiest hitter on the Iowa baseball team came through in the clutch Wednesday night.

After extending his hitting streak to 12 games in the bottom of the first, junior outfielder Ryan Durant stepped up to home plate with the storybook scenario in front of him: bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite having been in a similar situation during his time at Iowa Central, the junior-college transfer admitted he felt the late-game pressure mounting considering the Panthers’ unfortunate circumstances.

But with a confident swing of his white-hot bat, Durant ripped a 1-0 single into center to beat the Hawkeyes’ lone in-state rival, 5-4, at Banks Field in front of an announced crowd of 572.

The win improved Iowa to 15-22 overall. It was also the team’s first win of the season after trailing through the first six innings.

“I just told myself to keep it simple,” Durant said. “You know, it was two outs, all I can do is keep it simple, and just try to put the ball in play, and move the ball.”

The Hawkeyes certainly moved the ball in the bottom of the first, batting around to jump ahead, 3-0, after plating three runs on three hits, beginning with a one-out RBI single by Durant.

The Panthers tested the mettle of Iowa sophomore hurler Zach Kenyon in the top of the third as Kenyon faced a bases-loaded jam. But despite giving up a run and allowing three-straight hits, Kenyon ended the inning on a pop-up and a devastating strikeout.

Later in the fifth against Hawkeye reliever Patrick Schatz, Northern Iowa tallied its second run of the night but left runners on second and third.

Iowa failed to replicate its previous offensive spurt after the first.

“It’s just a matter of going out there and getting balls to fall,” Iowa senior shortstop Justin Toole said. “We hit some balls hard at people, and they just didn’t fall. But you know, we stayed after it, and our pitching kept us in.”

A RBI triple by Panther left fielder Travis Bennett knotted the score at 3 in the top of the seventh, and a groundout to shortstop one batter later gave Northern Iowa a one-run lead.

But a clutch double down the right-field line by Iowa freshman infielder Mike McQuillan tied the game, 4-4, in the bottom of the eighth and helped set up Durant’s late-game heroics.

“That’s what you want to play for,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said.

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