Iowa suffers no hangover after unusual series

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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As far as meaningless games go, this one was pretty damn important.

After dropping two of three to Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, the Iowa baseball team needed to get back on track — and quickly.

Sitting at 8-10 in Big Ten play with just two weeks left, the Black and Gold are on the cusp of their most important series of the season, a three-game home stand this weekend against Illinois.

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Clinging to a three-way tie with Ohio State and Michigan State for sixth place in the Big Ten standings, this weekend’s series with the Illini could very well make or break Iowa’s hopes of making the Big Ten Tournament.

And with the team getting back in Iowa City late Monday night, Wednesday’s midweek matchup against Upper Iowa was one of the few opportunities the Black and Gold would have to work out some of their kinks with such a quick turnaround before facing Illinois.

“Tonight is particular was a little more challenging than normal because we played an odd weekend and haven’t had a midweek game the last two weeks,” head coach Rick Heller said. “And even though we had to give them Tuesday off, I was pretty pleased with the way we handled ourselves tonight.

“Upper Iowa played tough, so to come out and pound out 14 hits and have our pitchers throw strikes was very reassuring.”

For an Iowa squad that has shown some serious potential as a Big Ten dark horse this season, the Hawks were all over the place in their three-game series against Ohio State.

While they managed to run the Buckeyes out of the ballpark after a 17-2 drubbing in the second game, Heller and the Hawkeyes strung together just 6 runs in the other two games, costing them two conference wins that that would have helped their chances of reaching a higher seed before the tournament.

“We’ve actually been pretty consistent all things considered,” Heller said. “We’re just trying to fight, and scratch, and claw, and do what ever we have to do to win some games.”

A tune-up game if there ever was one, Wednesday’s 8-3 victory over the Peacocks felt more like an in-practice scrimmage than an official game for the Black and Gold.

Cycling through five different pitchers, Iowa worked out everyone it could in preparation for Illinois on May 9.

“These games are always huge, especially now,” junior Nick Hibbing said.  “Some guys didn’t get to pitch a whole lot lately with our last midweek game getting scratched, so to get everyone some time on the mound felt good.”

Thankfully for Heller and the Hawks, the team he saw win 17-2 was also the team that showed up last night against Upper Iowa.

The Black and Gold roped 12 hits against the Peacocks, including a pair of back-to-back 3-run innings in the sixth and seventh that broke it open for the Hawks.

“Everyone looked disciplined at the plate today,” junior Jake Yacinich said.  “We were seeing the ball and had some great at-bats — even some of the balls that didn’t get through we hit hard.”

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