Hawkeyes defeat Nebraska, 8-4

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa baseball team exceeded expectations in the nonconference portion of its schedule. However, people were hesitant to get excited until the Hawks duplicated that success against Big Ten opponents.

Iowa got off to a good start in that aspect on Sunday, when they defeated Nebraska, 8-4, taking the series by winning two of the three games.

The series win was the first Big Ten opening series win for Iowa since 1998.

“I was really proud of our guys; we came out and battled,” head coach Rick Heller said. “… I was really pleased with how our guys showed a lot of mental toughness, as did their guys. All those games were well-played games in about as bad of conditions as you can play in.”

The Hawkeyes were given a strong outing from sophomore right-hander Tyler Peyton.

Peyton gave up 3 early runs in the second inning, two of them coming on a line drive that ricocheted off a diving left fielder Taylor Kaufman’s glove. But Peyton responded well, shutting the Cornhuskers out for the next four innings, three of them in 1-2-3 fashion.

“[Peyton] finally found a feel for his slider,” Heller said. “He never did find a feel for his changeup today, so he really had to do it with fewer pitches than he normally does.”

Peyton finished with 6 ⅓ innings pitched, giving up 4 earned runs and striking out 3. The performance bumped his ERA on the season to 4.98.

Coming into the matchup with Nebraska, Iowa had scored the most runs among Big Ten teams. This offensive output continued Sunday for the Hawkeyes, particularly in the bottom of the eighth inning, where Iowa pushed 4 runs across the plate, sealing the win.

The rally started with two Hawkeyes singles and an Eric Toole walk that loaded for bases. Then the runs came pouring in.

First, a Jake Mangler single scored Trevor Kenyon, then a Jake Yacinich single drove in Nick Day, and a Dan Potempa double down the left-field line scored 2.

Throughout all of these at-bats, one thing remained consistent: Iowa batters remained patient, working the count and making the Nebraska pitchers struggle for each out.

“We try to go deep in the counts, try to get into the bullpen as fast as we can,” Potempa said. “Get the bullpen by the fourth or fifth inning, and get our hitting going.”

Iowa will return to action on Wednesday, when Bradley will visit. For Iowa, the matchup will be a brief break from the Big Ten slate of games. But only brief, as Iowa will follow up that lone game with a three-game series against Michigan.

For the Hawkeyes, that series will be a continuation of an already promising start to the Big Ten season.

“It’s really a confidence booster,” Peyton said about the victory. “Beating a quality opponent in Nebraska two out of three times. To have that happen, it really can lead to some more series wins in the future.”

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