Roller-coaster game ends with Iowa baseball walking strong

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa's baseball team likes to make its games interesting.

The Hawkeyes entered their half of the ninth inning down 2 runs, but Mike McQuillan drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to send the team to a 8-7 win over Western Illinois on Tuesday evening at Banks Field.

"It was a good win for us," Hawkeye manager Jack Dahm said.

Dahm's squad looked nearly perfect through the first four innings of Tuesday night's game against Western Illinois. Freshman pitcher Andrew Hedrick only gave up 2 hits and 1 run with 6 strikeouts during his four innings on the mound.

"[The coaches] wanted to save me for the weekend," he said about his short outing. "I kept the ball down and kept them off balance. I was pretty consistent on hitting my spots with my fastball, which I had been working on."

The Iowa bats were taking care of the rest during the bottom half of the innings. The third frame saw Jacob Yacinich with a standing, one-out double that looped past the Leathernecks' Matt Igara.

Iowa's Phil Keppler was walked two batters later. Bryan Niedbalski stepped to the plate to redeem himself after he stranded two runners in the first inning.

He ripped a double to right, sending Yacinich and Keppler home to give Iowa a 2-0 advantage. Chett Zeise hit a soft RBI single to left that extended the lead to 3-0.

The Leathernecks were able to snag a run in the top of the fourth, but Iowa responded with 2 more. Andrew Host walked with one out to set the inning in motion. Alexander Zarate replaced Western Illinois starter Tyler Willman, then loaded the bases via walks — Host stood on third, McQuillan was on second, and Yacinich was on first.

A wild pitch advanced the runners, giving Iowa a 4-1 lead. Jake Mangler grounded out to first in the same at-bat, scoring McQuillan for a 5-1 Hawkeye lead. Nick Hibbing replaced Hedrick on the mound for Iowa, tossing two groundouts and a strikeout to hold the Hawkeye lead.

"We came out really fired up today," McQuillan said. "We had a 5-1 lead, and we were expecting to put more runs on."

Everything changed in the sixth inning.

"We were back on our heels," the coach said. "We got a little anxious offensively."

But it was the pitching that sucked the life out of Banks Field.

Hibbing surrendered a double to Brent Turner to begin the sixth. He followed that by plunking Igara. A wild pitch shortly after sent Turner to third, and Dan Dispensa tacked on a run by singling to right and sending Turner home. Hibbing walked Austin Cowen to load the bases.

Steve Kedroski stepped to the plate and belted a first-pitch fastball over the right-field wall. 6-5, Leathernecks.

"We can't back down after a grand slam," McQuillan said. "We've battled back in the past. We needed to continue to do it."

And so the Hawkeyes did, but it wasn't until the ninth inning that Iowa began to make more noise at the plate. At this point, Western Illinois had added another run for a 7-5 advantage.

Iowa was down to its last out when three walks loaded the bases. Eric Toole came to the plate, and with two strikes, he singled up the middle and scored 2 runs, tying the game at 7.

Andrew Host was walked in the next at-bat, sending Toole to second, and pinch-runner Nick Day stood on third. The excitement started to build in what was left of the Iowa fans.

McQuillan stepped up to the plate and — just like his teammate before him — the senior was walked. Day safely crossed home plate, securing Iowa's 8-7 victory.

"It was huge. It was a good win," McQuillan said. "Anytime you can win in the bottom of the ninth is huge. It's a feel good win, but tomorrow we have to come back to work — tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday. And we'll play again this weekend."

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