Baseball pounds 17 hits in blowout over Michigan State

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa baseball team entered Sunday’s seventh inning leading Michigan State by 4 runs.

By the time the inning was over — almost 40 minutes and 14 batters later — the Hawkeyes led by 14.

The seventh-inning explosion and subsequent 19-7 final score allowed Iowa (10-15, 1-2) to avoid a three-game conference-opening sweep at the hands of the Spartans (17-7, 2-1). The Hawkeyes’ 17 hits were the team’s most this season and the 19 runs were the most against a conference opponent since 1989.

Iowa scored early and often, posting three runs in each of the second, fifth, and sixth innings, but it was the seventh frame that put Michigan State away for good at Banks Field. The Spartans gave up only five hits in the inning but still needed three pitchers and 54 pitches to retire the Black and Gold.

Outfielder Phil Keppler failed to reach base, but the redshirt junior did pick up an RBI with a towering sacrifice fly to left field.

“It was a great inning, and [it shows] our ability to produce and put people away when we’re ahead,” second baseman Mike McQuillan said. “We blew it open and sealed the deal.”

If anyone had needed a good afternoon at the plate, it was McQuillan. The junior from Evergreen Park, Ill., was hitless in seven at-bats during the first two games but found his swing on Sunday and finished 3-for-6 with a double and two RBIs.

McQuillan’s resurgence was just one example of how the Hawkeyes could do no wrong on offense. Almost every conceivable play was represented, from doubles off the wall to little dribblers through the infield. Perhaps the strangest sight of the afternoon, though, came in the sixth frame when redshirt senior Tyson Blaser belted an RBI triple down the right-field line. The three-bagger was Blaser’s first in an Iowa uniform, and the 230-pound catcher joked afterwards that he didn’t think he would make it to third as he chugged around the bases.

“I always wanted to leave here with a triple, so now I can tell my kids I was really fast when I was here,” Blaser said and laughed. “It felt good to get out there and run.”

The Hawkeyes visibly enjoyed spraying hits all over the field, and head coach Jack Dahm said he was particularly pleased with how his team was able to drive runners home after a rough stretch in the first two games of the series. Iowa had plenty of base runners on April 1 and 2, but stranded 25 men in 7-2 and 7-1 losses.

“Every team … goes through a week or two where they just have a hard time getting hits with runners in scoring position,” Dahm said. “We’ve gone through that here over the last four or five games. The guys were starting to feel it a little bit.”

The Hawkeyes had no such struggles on Sunday and collected 15 RBIs while stranding eight. Nine Hawkeyes had at least one RBI, and five — McQuillan, Blaser, Keppler, Chett Zeise, and Keith Brand — had numerous tallies in the column.

And while Dahm said he would have preferred to win the first conference series of the year, his players said they were happy with taking home a blowout win over arguably the best team in the Big Ten.

“It speaks volumes,” Blaser said. “We had struggled a lot this year, but we’re going to keep coming at teams. That’s going to bode well for us down the road. We’re not going to give in. We’re going to keep pushing. Things might be a struggle at times, but we’re going to get things rolling.”

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