Iowa defeats Upper Iowa, 8-3

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Facing the team he played for and coached for 12 years, Iowa head coach Rick Heller found himself in the other dugout in an Iowa uniform for the first time against Upper Iowa. A special moment, for sure.

However, it was all business once the game started, and Iowa defeated Upper Iowa, 8-3, in its final midweek game of the regular season.

“I’m just happy to get a win,” Heller said. “It was a good game. I thought Upper Iowa hit the ball well, and we were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes they made.”

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With the win, Iowa improves to 27-17 on the season, and despite the connections to Upper Iowa, Heller noted his worries with looking too much into Upper Iowa’s 11-30 record.

“With their situation, they’ve played a lot of close games,” he said. “That’s why I told the guys, ‘You better not look at their record and think they can’t play.’ They lost 10 1-run games and were in almost every one of their losses. They’re going to come in and compete.”

For six innings, Iowa failed to pull away from the Upper Iowa. But in the bottom of the sixth inning, Iowa tacked on 3 runs courtesy of a Jake Yacinich RBI-single up the middle and then a 2-run home run from junior Dan Potempa, his third of the season.

“We always tend to get a lot of runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth [innings],” Potempa said. “That’s the thing about our team, we never give up. We get runs here, they get runs there, and then all of a sudden, seventh, eighth, ninth, we come in and explode.”

With runs on the board and a comfortable lead, Iowa’s pitching — one that for the night was pieced together with several bullpen arms — got knocked around in the top of the seventh inning.

In that inning, the Peacocks cut the lead in half, notching 2 runs and putting pressure on the Hawkeye pitchers for the first time all evening.

But Iowa responded in the next half of the frame, posting 3 runs on RBIs by Yacinich and Potempa, and in the process, eliminating any chance of a Peacock comeback.

“That was really big, especially because they had some momentum coming back on us,” Yacinich said. “They were putting runs on us, then we come back and put runs one them, it kind of stops them right there in their tracks. It gives out pitchers more to work with, too.”

For now, the Hawkeyes’ attention turns to Illinois, which they will face this weekend in a three-game series.

The series won’t just be three extremely important games for the Black and Gold; if the season ended today, they would qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. It will also be the last time that Iowa seniors Taylor Zeutenhorst, Trevor Kenyon, and Bryan Niedbalski will play in front of the home crowd.

“For some of those seniors, it’s their last games here,” Yacinich said. “You going to want to get it done for them. There will be some emotion out there.”

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