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Hawkeyes hum through Nebraska in double-header

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 27, 2015 5:00 AM

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It might have taken longer than head coach Rick Heller would have liked, but when the machine got rolling, it could not be stopped.

The Hawkeyes on Sunday at Banks Field got back to playing Heller-ball, a brand of baseball that focuses on getting men on base and good defense, in the sixth inning of the first game, and the comeback was on.

“If you had told me before the season started we would have swept Nebraska with Peyton not hitting and Nick Day not playing third or hitting, I would have had a hard time believing that,” Heller said following his team’s sweep of Nebraska.

In a game that was exciting to watch all the way through, the Hawkeyes began chipping away at the lead in the sixth inning with a Jake Mangler triple that scored Eric Toole.

In the eighth, Joel Booker, who had been hitless for a number of games, ripped a triple; he scored on a Toole sacrifice fly.

For Booker, getting the hit that led to the tying run was just as important as getting the win.

“Today, I was keeping the swings up, and I was like, all right, this one’s going to drop,” Booker said. “That’s about when I hit the triple.”

With two outs in the 10th, the bases loaded, and a full count, junior Jimmy Frankos fouled off two-straight pitches along the third-base line.

On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Frankos squared up and hit a blooper off of true freshman Garett King along the third-base line that appeared, at least for a moment, to have been caught by Nebraska outfielder Christian Cox.

However, the ball popped out of Cox’s glove as he hit the ground, and senior Kris Goodman scored from third to cap a comeback for the Hawkeyes in a 3-2 victory.

The late-game heroics, which have become a theme of the Hawkeye’s season so far, were not needed in the second game for Iowa to complete the weekend sweep and win its sixth Big Ten series.

The Hawkeyes pounded the Cornhuskers for 5 runs, one each in the second, third, and fifth as well as 2 in the fourth, on 13 hits as junior Tyler Peyton, who played first base in the first game, pitched 8.2 innings and struck out 9.

Peyton was questionable to play. When he doesn’t pitch, he bats cleanup and plays first base for the Hawkeyes. However, with a fastball in the low 90s and a changeup that froze numerous batters, he did not look like an injured pitcher. 

“A lot of us, me included, didn’t know what to expect. He asked to be pulled in the first game,” Heller said. “And to see him basically pitch as well as he’s pitched the entire season is incredible.”

In all, the Hawkeyes, who struggled in the second game of a double-header last weekend against Northwestern, put together arguably their most complete game of the season to capture their 13th Big Ten and 30th win on the season.

“It seemed like we had more of a hop in our step,” Peyton said. “It might be the focus.”

Iowa did not win its 30th game last season until May 22 in its second game of the Big Ten Tournament. This marks the first time since 1989 and 1990 that the Hawkeyes have won 30 games in consecutive seasons.

Iowa, 13-2 in the Big Ten, also remains just a half game behind Illinois in the conference. The Illini are 13-1 on the year after sweeping Penn State.

The ceiling for the Hawkeyes is high, but Heller said he and his team are not thinking that far ahead.

“We’ll play them all the same way,” Heller said. “We’ll go out and try to find a way to win.”

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


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