Baseball takes two of three in Evanston


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Going into Iowa’s weekend series against Northwestern, the Hawks had a chance to stay hot and complete their first series sweep of a Big Ten opponent this season. Halfway through the first game of the series, the Black and Gold looked well on their way to completing the first leg of the sweep.

With a 10-run lead midway through the seventh inning, head coach Rick Heller once again leaned on his bullpen to close out the first game and the victory for the Hawks.

Middle reliever Brandon Shulista took the hill, and what followed was one of the most stunning moments the Hawkeyes have experienced all season.

Scoring 11 runs in their final three at-bats, the Wildcats came back from a 13-3 deficit to shock the Hawkeyes in Evanston and take the first game of the series, 14-13. 

Just like that, Iowa’s hopes for their first Big Ten sweep were gone.

“This was a painful 14-13 walk-off loss today,” Heller said in a release on April 11. “Our bullpen wasn’t very good. We turned it over to the bullpen with a 10-run lead in the seventh and couldn’t get anybody out. It was a little depleted with the midweek games, but that’s no excuse; with a 10-run lead, you have to find a way to get it done.”

Shulista was shelled for 5 runs in the bottom of the seventh, starting a momentum shift that the Black and Gold had no answer for.

The Hawks squandered a season-high 20 hits in the loss.

“Once Northwestern got hot, we couldn’t stop it. We had our best guy in at the end of the game, and he couldn’t get it done,” Heller said.

Playing a double-header Saturday because of inclement weather in Evanston, Heller and the Hawks had back-to-back opportunities to redeem themselves.

And thankfully for them, they did not make the same mistakes.

After a dominant pitching performance from Tyler Peyton, the Hawks took the second game, 8-1, before closing out the series with a 5-0 shutout from junior Sasha Kuebel late in the afternoon.

The Black and Gold combined for 19 hits over the final two games to bury any hope the Wildcats had.

“Sasha was unbelievable, just an outstanding performance,” Heller said. “He was dominant all day, and it was an incredible performance, especially coming back on short rest from midweek.”

The game was the eighth game in nine days for the Hawkeyes, who had played five straight at home just a few days before.

And while the Wildcats are near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, Heller was still impressed with how his team responded after blowing the first game of the series.

“It was a big double-header sweep today, and I couldn’t be happier with how our guys bounced back after the tough loss last night,” Heller said. “The guys were locked and played hard all day, a solid 18 innings and didn’t commit an error.”

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