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Hickman, Hawkeyes, can't overcome

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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It’s hard to find a good word to describe the start that Iowa pitcher Blake Hickman had in Iowa’s 8-6 loss against Western Illinois on April 15.

He wasn’t terrible. After all, he gave up no runs and struck out three batters in support of a 2-run Hawkeye second inning.

Then again, he wasn’t all that great, either. He threw 60 pitches in just three innings and gave up 5 hits. He struggled to find the strike zone, and for the second-consecutive start, he gave up a free base on a wild hit-by-pitch that nearly took off Western Illinois second-basemen Travis Stafford’s head.

All in all, it was an inconsistent, albeit somewhat encouraging, appearance for Hickman, who has yet to find his groove on the hill for the Black and Gold this season.

The Chicago native had a similar outing against Kansas back on April 8, his first start of the season.

“I definitely feel like this game was an improvement over last time,” Hickman said. “I really cut down on the walks. Gave up quite a few hits, but not walking so many guys was my main thing.”

And while Hickman wasn’t great, none of the Hawkeyes seemed to be able to find their A-game against the Leathernecks.

Four errors as well as hits in the top of the fifth allowed Western Illinois to storm out to a 5-2 lead.

“It was really disappointing to see how that played out,” coach Rick Heller said. “If you look back at some of the losses, we have a tendency to give up a big inning and then have to try to recover from it, which is something I thought we were past from a maturity standpoint.”

Couple those errors with Iowa’s incredible lack of offense midway through (they recorded just 3 hits in the first six innings), and the Hawks were in a constant struggle against themselves, fighting an uphill battle that ultimately was their undoing.

Early on in the contest, the Hawkeyes took advantage of a pair of infield errors by Western Illinois.

Catcher Jimmy Frankos drove in junior Jake Yacinich on a single to center, who had advanced to third after an overthrow at first base. A few pitches later, sophomore Nick Roscetti scored from second, again on an overthrown ball at first.

However the Leathernecks scored three innings later, taking advantage of an Iowa defense that looked dazed and confused in support of relief pitcher Matt Allen.

“It was just a tough inning and a tough night,” Frankos said.

And while the Black and Gold mounted a spirited comeback to tie it in the ninth, they came unraveled in extra innings, eventually falling in the 10th.

Factor in the nine combined hit-by-pitches and six combined errors, and you’re left with one of the ugliest games off all time, one that the Hawkeyes are most likely not in a hurry to duplicate anytime soon.

“If we’re going to take that next step and try to become a really good team, games like these are the ones we’re going to try to have to eliminate,” Heller said.


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