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Baseball holds on in ninth to beat Huskers


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The Iowa baseball team (17-21) cruised for the better part of eight innings against Nebraska (19-22) for a 5-2 victory Wednesday night — its first against the Cornhuskers since March 4, 2007.

But Nebraska lead-off hitter DJ Belfonte and Iowa closer Kevin Lee provided the 765 fans at Banks Field with plenty of drama in the tussle.

Although the Cornhuskers trailed, 5-2, runners on first and second meant the senior center fielder represented the tying run as he strolled to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth.

“If he’s going to get beat, you’re going to have to swing the bat against him,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said about Lee, who throws almost every one of his pitches for a strike.

And the next batter — Belfonte — unleashed a swing that nearly beat him.

Lee’s 2-2 offering exploded off Belfonte’s bat deep down the right-field line, instantly hushing the mostly pro-Hawkeye crowd.

“Out of my hand, I was like, ‘Oh crap,’ ” Lee said. “I knew I left the ball up, and I knew he could punish me for it.”

There was never any doubt the ball was immediately destined to land beyond the right field fence — the only question was if it would be ruled fair for a home run.

The call? Foul ball. Iowa fans rejoiced while the Hawkeyes, including Lee, breathed a sigh of a relief.

“Basically, I was ready to start cussing myself out,” Lee said. “I let up a cookie that was right over the middle of the plate. I saw it going foul. I didn’t know if it was going to get foul quick enough, but luckily for our team, it did.”

And in much less exciting fashion, Lee’s next pitch resulted in an infield pop-up, marking the game’s final out and Lee’s eighth save of the season.

Lee’s successful, albeit adventurous, appearance helped preserve a win for senior Zach Robertson (3-3). The southpaw surrendered no hits in 12⁄3 innings of work after one inning by fellow reliever Patrick Schatz.

Freshman Matt Dermody earned a no-decision after recording his second-consecutive start, taking the mound for 51⁄3 innings and allowing two runs on six hits.

“He did an outstanding job all night long,” Dahm said. “That’s a big outing for Dermody. He got recruited by Nebraska and some other real big programs. It’s a growing up experience for him. He’s making big strides, and today was a big step for his future.”

Mike McQuillan delivered Iowa’s most clutch performance at the plate. The sophomore second baseman drove in two runs on a base knock in the seventh inning after Nebraska intentionally walked Zach McCool to load the bases.

Those runs opened up a 4-2 Hawkeye lead and broke a 2-2 tie.

“I was trying to get a pitch up,” McQuillan said. “I knew I was probably going to see a lot of off-speed pitches. He ended up getting behind in the count, 3-1, and I just sat on a fastball. I think he made a mistake because it was right over the plate, and I hit it.”

Iowa will face Creighton in Omaha today at 6:35 p.m.

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