Hawks sneak past Northern Illinois in extra innings


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Freshman Nick Gallagher was sitting pretty on the mound for the Hawks Wednesday night, having moved efficiently through the first seven outs of his start against Northern Illinois.

He didn’t last until out No. 9.

In classic Heller-ball fashion, the Hawkeyes limped along with a rotating door of pitchers for much of the game before completing yet another bottom-of-the-ninth comeback to force extra innings and eventually a 4-3 victory. 

“We’ve been struggling in our midweek game, so our emphasis was just to come out and play the game we know we’re capable of playing,” junior Jimmy Frankos said.  “We had some bad at-bats early, but we battled through and came away with the win.”

Junior Connor Grant took the Hawks through the fifth inning, scattering 2 hits and a pair of runs over 2.2 innings before eventually being replaced by junior Brandon Shulista.

All told, five Hawkeye pitchers took toed the rubber for the Hawks.

“Right now, we did what we needed to do, but we have to move on and focus on this weekend,” Grant said. “I didn’t really know exactly how long I was going, but I knew it was going to be more than one, so we just had to go out there and do the best we could.”

For Heller, in-game experience is the name of the game, no matter the performance.  Still, he’ll take a “W” any way he can.

“Connor wasn’t able to overcome the errors and ended up giving up a pair after, but for the most part, I thought we had a pretty good day pitching,” Heller said. “We had a couple bad at bats, and it didn’t look like we we’re going to get, but some how some way we got it done,”

Iowa’s usual starters lacked offensive punch for much of the night, mustering just 6 hits and a pair of runs in the fourth inning that they failed to match over the final five frames.

Until the final out, that is. With their backs up against the wall, designated hitter Dan Potempa drilled a single through the gap on the left side of the infield to knot the game at 3.

A bases-loaded walk two innings later sealed the victory for the Hawkeyes. 

Offensive inconsistency has plagued the Hawkeyes in a number of Wednesday night games this year, and the problem doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Until Potempa’s single, the Hawkeyes had only mustered 6 hits. They finished with 10.

They have managed to come up with the big hit when needed, so far. But Heller knows his team is playing with fire.

“I’m not going to lie I was a little frustrated today,” Heller said.  “We had some poor at bats at crucial times that I thought could have broke the game open for us so that was disappointing. But the great thing with this team is they don’t quit.  They find a way to win.”

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa baseball team.

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