Baseball loses its fourth-straight conference series

BY MATT COZZI | APRIL 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Too many walks, not enough run support, and a coaching ejection.

Michigan defeated Iowa, 5-2, on Sunday at Banks Field amid those occurrences, and the Hawkeyes (15-22, 4-8 Big Ten) have now lost their first four Big Ten series.

On April 23, Iowa split a double-header with the Wolverines (13-25, 6-6) to set up Sunday afternoon's rubber matchup. The Hawkeyes won the first game, 13-7, before falling in the second contest, 2-1. Following Sunday's loss, head coach Jack Dahm's squad remains at the bottom of the conference standings.

Starting pitcher Patrick Lala put himself and the Hawkeyes in a hole early, allowing three runs in the first two innings. Dahm pulled his right-hander in the fourth, and Lala exited after walking six and throwing 84 pitches.

Lala's control was shaky from the beginning, and Iowa wasn't able to overcome the early 3-0 deficit. He attributed the six free passes to his mechanics.

"I didn't get on top of my fastball like I should be," he said. "I think it was something mechanically wrong. I would get up on a guy 0-2, and then slowly but surely [the count] would get to 3-2, and then I ended up walking him. The [mechanical issues] should be an easy fix before my next time out."

Although Lala had a setback, not all of Iowa's pitchers were ineffective. Senior Zach Kenyon rose to the occasion in a long relief role, and the tall right-hander limited the Michigan offense in a solid 5 2/3 innings of work.

Kenyon has excelled in numerous roles over the course of his college career, but Sunday's performance may warrant him a start in the coming weeks.

"I went out there and tried to prevent any further damage," Kenyon said. "I want to take advantage of my opportunities and help the team win. I felt good out there today. Had my fastball and slider working, but we just weren't able to get the win."

Despite the 13-run outburst on April 23, the Hawkeyes' offense continued to struggle. Iowa scored just three runs in the final two games of the three-game set against the Wolverines.

Mike McQuillan paced the Hawkeyes offensively all weekend; the junior second baseman went 6-for-10 on the series. Designated hitter Keith Brand recorded his fourth multi-hit game of the season Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

"We didn't capitalize on our chances, we didn't put any pressure on them late in the game," McQuillan said. "We had a few opportunities here and there, but that's baseball, you don't always get it done. It was a tough weekend, but we need to come back strong next weekend against Minnesota."

Throughout Sunday's contest, the crowd of 409 at Banks Field — and also Dahm — gave home plate umpire Todd Olinger an earful about his ball and strike calls.

Dahm's last argument came after McQuillan got called out on strikes on a low inside pitch to end the fifth inning. After a couple minutes debating about halfway down the third base line, Olinger threw Dahm out of the game.

For Iowa, the ejection can probably sum up the team's frustrations after its unsuccessful weekend series.

"We're not getting it done offensively," Dahm said. "Our guys got to stick together now; we still have half the year left in conference play, and anything can happen. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and figure out what we need to do in order to help this team win."

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