Iowa baseball loses 14-inning thriller

BY MATT COZZI | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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A missed opportunity.

After 14 innings and several chances to win, the Iowa baseball team was not able to come out on top against South Dakota State, falling 7-4 Tuesday.

Nearly four hours after the first pitch at 4:05 p.m., the lights at Banks Field were in full effect at the game’s conclusion. The Hawkeyes (9-12) used five pitchers and 12 position players.

“You have to play each pitch one at a time,” designated hitter Tyson Blaser said. “You can’t look too far ahead, otherwise you go 14 innings like we did today. We maybe tried to do a little too much with runners in scoring position [in extra innings].”

The Hawkeyes went into the top of the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, but closer Kevin Lee could not secure the game. The senior right-hander did not record a single out, yielding back-to-back singles to Jackrabbit hitters before being pulled.

South Dakota State tied the game on a sacrifice fly off junior Patrick Lala, then took the lead on an error by shortstop Kurt Lee.

Lee underthrew first baseman Phil Keppler on a routine ground ball, allowing Eric Cain to score and give the Jackrabbits a 4-3 lead. Lala remained composed, though, and the Marion native struck out Jackrabbit leadoff man Billy Stitz to end the ninth.

In the Hawkeyes’ first rally attempt, Chett Zeise walked to leadoff the bottom half of the ninth. After Keith Brand bunted Zeise over to second, senior center fielder Trevor Willis shifted the momentum in favor of Iowa.

Willis doubled into left field to drive home Zeise, making him the winning run with just one out.

But the Hawkeyes couldn’t deliver. Mike McQuillan flew out to center and Blaser’s hot shot to third was corralled for the third out of the inning.

In the top of the 11th, head coach Jack Dahm again called on the bullpen, bringing in southpaw Jeff Pacha.

“I wanted to come in and do my job and give our offense an opportunity to win the game,” Pacha said of his extra inning mentality. Pacha did just that, too, as both teams traded scoreless innings through the 13th.

Jackrabbit hitters were able to solve Pacha’s craftiness in the top of the 14th. Cain’s bases-clearing double won the game for South Dakota State, and Iowa went home disappointed.

Early on, the Hawkeyes were able to string some offense together against South Dakota State starting pitcher Blake Treinen. The 6-4, 220-pound right-hander attracted numerous professional scouts to Banks Field, and his fastball hit 95 mph.

Treinen — taken in the 23rd round by the Florida Marlins in the June 2010 major league draft — went 71⁄3 innings, giving up nine hits while striking out 10. Iowa recorded seven hits against the future pro in the game’s first three innings, before he settled down.

Junior third baseman Andrew Ewing was one of the few bright spots for Iowa — the Iowa City native went 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

“[Treinen] was throwing pretty well,” Ewing said. “I can definitely understand while all the scouts were here. For the most part, I thought we did a good job trying to hit the ball the other way.”

Blaser said Iowa needs a quick response following the extra-inning defeat, especially with conference play beginning on Friday. Thankfully for the Hawkeyes, their opportunity is today; they again face off against South Dakota State at 4:05 p.m. to close out the two-game series.

“We’d like to have some momentum going into the weekend,” the senior said. “We need to come out here and get a ‘W’ tomorrow.”

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