Baseball wins late-inning thriller

BY J.T. BUGOS | APRIL 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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Three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning propelled Iowa to a 6-5 victory over South Dakota State on Wednesday.

Following a pair of Jackrabbit errors that scored senior Hawkeye Ryan Durant and redshirt sophomore Phil Keppler, shortstop Kurt Lee beat out a ground ball to South Dakota State shortstop Eric Cain to score Sean Flanagan, who proved to be the winning run.

“Kurt Lee did a good job of moving the baseball and hustling to first base,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “He’s got a knack of driving in runs with two outs. It was a big swing of the bat.”

A spectacular play in the top of the ninth inning capped off the Hawkeyes’ ninth win of the season and kept the Jackrabbits from threatening in their last at-bats.

South Dakota State’s third baseman Jesse Sawyer — who boasts six home runs on the season — ripped a long fly ball to right field. But Iowa redshirt freshman Andrew Host, a defensive replacement in the fourth inning, sprinted toward the fence and made a diving grab on the warning track.

“I just knew I had to make that play because it was the last inning,” Host said. “I was supposed to be playing farther back, so I should have been standing up catching it. But how I made the play was fine with me.”

Even with the late-inning come-from-behind victory and a web gem in the field, the most important performance of the day came in the first seven innings. Southpaw Zach Robertson pitched into the eighth frame, allowing just three hits and one earned run while striking out 10.

“Every time I can come out and have control of all of my pitches, I seem to have good outings,” Robertson said. “Limited free bases also helps a lot. When you can get guys to swing the bat and get themselves out, it makes the game a lot quicker.”

Robertson came into the game with a 10.54 earned run average in three starts, but catcher Dallas Burke said the senior had all of his pitches working and was throwing right to the glove.

Robertson is capable of a double-digit strikeout total every time he takes the hill, the catcher said, and his repertoire makes him tough to hit when he’s throwing strikes.

Burke said he expects the type of outing from the Des Moines native every start, but Dahm admitted he didn’t anticipate that Robertson would throw as well as he did.

“I was hoping to get five or six innings out of him, and he was outstanding,” the seven-year head coach said. “And he pitched out of trouble, too, which was very good to see. His biggest thing is just throwing strikes and keeping guys off balance, and he showed what he’s capable of doing today.”

Dahm said with the way Robertson pitched during Wednesday’s game, the Hawkeyes deserved to walk out of Banks Field with a “W.”

“We give up a run in the first inning, and they hadn’t hit the ball hard off him,” he said. “He settled in and just kept them off balance. It’s a shame he didn’t get the win, but hats off to our guys.

“When they got a little bit of momentum and took the lead, they just got right back at it and found a way to win.”

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