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Pacha plugs sixth-inning outburst


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Jeff Pacha did what seemingly no other Hawkeye pitcher could do on Wednesday night: record the final out in the top of the sixth inning.

But that wasn’t before Northern Illinois shellacked the Iowa bullpen to put together a 10-run frame. The scoreboard at Banks Field couldn’t even facilitate all 10 runs.

Instead, without space for two digits, the first number under “6” read “0.”

The Huskies combined for nine hits off three Hawkeye relievers: Ricky Sandquist, Michael Jacobs, and Kevin Gates. Every time an Iowa hurler seemingly had an edge on an opposing hitter, Northern Illinois responded by spraying another hit across the field.

Iowa catcher Tyson Blaser summed the inning up after the game with two words.

“It sucks,” he said.

The 6-2 junior said the Huskies’ bludgeoning snowballed after the Huskies strung some hits together.

“The mindset for pitchers, it’s tough when everything they throw up is getting hit,” Blaser said. “Behind the plate, it’s tough. But we have to respond better than that. We can’t give up a 10-spot. It can’t happen. We were in the game until that point.”

Pacha remained on the bump for the duration of the contest to provide a masterful relief effort. The Iowa City native pitched a career-high 3 1/3 innings, surrendering only two hits, and he also registered a career-high six strikeouts.

The 5-10 southpaw’s performance wasn’t much like his two previous appearances. Pacha allowed two runs on four hits and failed to record an out at Indiana on April 18. Before that, the local product was smacked around to the tune of eight runs on eight hits in only 1/3 of an inning at Michigan State on April 4.

“He came out tonight with a sense of purpose,” Blaser said. “Knowing that he wanted to come out here and show what he had, and that he can still come out of the bullpen and give us good innings.”

Pacha said he re-evaluated his pitching after his last two performances. Instead of throwing mostly cut fastballs, Wednesday night he primarily threw his four-seamer, using the cutter as a complementary pitch.

“That allowed me to get the ball down in the zone,” Pacha said. “That’s all it takes to get hitters out. Keep the ball down, and they’ll get themselves out.”

After the 13-2 loss, a baffled Jack Dahm struggled to find any positives in his team’s performance. The Iowa head coach ultimately decided the play of Pacha was one of few.

“That’s not a very easy situation [to enter the game in],” Dahm said. “Especially since Jeff’s had a couple of tough outings lately. It was good for him to get out there and get his confidence back and throw well.”

Dahm also commended the lefty’s performance for allowing fellow pitchers Patrick Schatz and Zach Kenyon to rest. His time on the mound prevented the Hawkeyes from exhausting any more arms in a lost cause.

Perhaps Pacha even earned himself more relief work in the near future. After all, he was exactly what Iowa needed in a demoralizing inning.

“You’re always looking for a guy to come out of the bullpen and be that stopper,” Blaser said. “And he did that.”

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