Iowa baseball rises from the dead

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa baseball team appeared to be done for.

It appeared there was no coming back from a mighty blow off the bat of Western Illinois' Steve Kedroski. The designated hitter took the first offering from reliever Nick Hibbing deep over the right-field fence for a grand slam. Kedroski's swing highlighted a 5-run sixth inning that gave the Leathernecks a 6-5 lead.

"In the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth [innings], it felt like we were dead," Iowa outfielder Eric Toole said. "We didn't have that energy. We kind of lost that swagger."

Tuesday marked the second-straight game in which the Iowa bullpen blew a 4-run lead. Closer Nick Brown lost a 4-run advantage on April 8 at Nebraska, which resulted in a devastating 9-8 loss to the Cornhuskers.

"I don't know if it was 'Here we go again,' but it was just — that grand slam was a tough blow," third baseman Chett Zeise said.

This time, though, the Hawkeyes had an answer. After three innings of deflated baseball in the late innings, Iowa regained the momentum that helped the team build a lead earlier in the game.

It might not have been pretty — the ball never left the infield during Iowa's last-ditch effort with two outs — but the Hawkeyes patched together 2 walks, 2 infield singles, and a hit batter to come back and defeat Western Illinois, 8-7.

"It kind of felt like we just needed something to go our way again," said Zeise, who posted a team-high 3 hits against the Leathernecks. "We started strong — we were tacking on runs, getting baserunners early in the game. Then that long half inning in the sixth where they put up the 5-spot, that slowed the pace of the game down, and we lost our energy there."

Iowa came out strong against the Leathernecks and looked like a team trying to forget what happened against Nebraska.

Starting pitcher Andrew Hedrick was particularly sharp, striking five of the first seven Western Illinois batters he faced.

The Hawkeye offense put a runner on second base in each of the first five innings and eventually scratched the scoreboard with a 3-run third.

Iowa manager Jack Dahm said he could sense even before the game started that the energy was where it needed to be to rebound and get a win against the Leathernecks.

"I thought everything today was very good at the beginning of the game — from our batting practice to our infield and outfield," he said. "The way we played the first five innings I was very happy with.

"But when they got that grand slam and put up that 5-spot, we got back on our heels a bit. That wasn't good to see because we thought we had worked through that part."

Dahm said he was most pleased with his team's ability to fight through the Leathernecks' offensive surge — Western Illinois scored another run in the seventh inning — thus avoiding another tough loss before heading into Saturday's double-header with South Dakota State and Creighton.

"That was a tough blow right there," Zeise said of the slam. "We gave up a few free bases, kind of lay down a bit and lost our energy.

"Luckily, we got it back."

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