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Baseball wins 10-inning thriller


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Jack Dahm can’t remember the last time his baseball team escaped with an easy victory.

The Hawkeyes continued that trend on Tuesday.

Iowa (14-19) needed 10 innings to defeat Western Illinois (9-24), 6-5, at Banks Field. But the Hawkeyes also continued their streak of early offense, tallying one run in the first inning and four more in the third to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

Western Illinois cut the Iowa advantage to one run after recording three in the fourth frame and one in the fifth.

Iowa’s batters had five hits over the first three innings but connected on just three for the remainder of the night.

Fortunately for Iowa, one of those hits was a first-pitch double rocketed down the right-field line, courtesy of Phil Keppler, to open the 10th inning.

“My approach was just to hit the ball where it was pitched,” Keppler said. “I got a pitch over the middle of the plate, and I got the bat head out in front of it and hit it down the line.”

Junior Kurtis Muller followed by drawing an intentional walk. Then third baseman Zach McCool executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance pinch-runner Kurt Lee and Muller.

Dahm said he was pleased with Keppler’s ability to provide a clutch hit.

“That was a big swing of the bat,” he said. “It put pressure on them. All of a sudden they’re going to intentionally walk, and they have to execute when we get the bunt.”

But Dahm was also disappointed his team needed extra frames to seal the victory. The Leathernecks waited until the ninth to seize the opportunity left by the slumping Hawkeye offense.

Lead-off hitter Dan Dispensa smoked a single straight through the middle of the infield off Hawkeye closer Kevin Lee, scoring right fielder Rich Mascheri from second base.

Dahm saw Lee missed a couple of signals after blowing the save opportunity and was worried about his ninth-inning stopper.

“I thought he lost his focus a little bit,” Dahm said. “But he made pitches.”

Fortunately for Iowa, Lee didn’t hang his head following the blown save. Instead, he retired three-straight Leatherneck hitters in the top of the 10th after allowing an inning-opening double.

Long offensive droughts such as the one Tuesday night have been a big reason for the Hawkeyes’ clawing victories. Dahm even resorted to using wooden bats for batting practice before the game in an attempt to get his players to shorten their swings.

“We’ve got guys that can hit, so it’s just a case of trying to get on a roll,” Dahm said. “We just have to stay with our approach. It just seems like we get a little over anxious. We just have to get relaxed and not try to do too much.”

Junior Zach McCool doesn’t need to change much, however. He laced his second of two triples in the bottom of the third inning to tie an Iowa record.

The Manchester, Iowa, native is the first Hawkeye since Brian Burks in 1999 to collect two three-baggers in a single game.

“It means a lot,” McCool said. “Coming out here and working on my swing every day and getting production is pretty nice. It’s really nice to keep working on things and keep getting better and getting the results that you want.”

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