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Hawkeyes sweep Gophers

BY IAN MURPHY | MAY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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Ten hits usually lead to at least a handful of runs, but on Sunday against Minnesota, the Hawkeye defense backed the pitching staff in one the team’s best outings of the season.

The pitching staff was solid all day, with junior starting pitcher Calvin Matthews going five innings, striking out 5 on 68 pitches and allowing 1 earned run en route to Iowa’s 7-1 victory to sweep the series.

However, the credit for the win can go to the defense, which did not allow a Minnesota runner to reach third base until the fifth inning, when the Gophers scored their only run.

For Matthews, the defensive support was essential to preserving the win, but he said the plays they made were no surprise.

“They’ve been making plays all year,” Matthews said. “It’s kind of expected now.”

Senior Nick Day returned to the lineup last weekend and made big plays Sunday at third, stopping a handful of ground balls to rob Minnesota of extra-base hits.

With runners on the corners and one out in the sixth, junior Nick Roscetti turned a hard hit grounder to the hole that would have scored two into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

The outfield got in on the fun, too, with junior right fielder Joel Booker robbing Minnesota’s Micah Coffey of an extra-base knock with a sliding basket catch in the top of the third.

Give credit to the defense, but it would be unfair to give it all of the credit.

It’s unusual to hold a team to 1 run while allowing 10 hits, but even more so to win with 7 runs on 7 hits.

It’s a position that’s become familiar to followers of HellerBall, the brand of offense that focuses on putting guys on base with walks or singles and moving them over with steals, bunts, and sacrifice flies.

“When we’ve got a guy on second base and nobody out, we’re moving him over,” Day said. “We’re doing the stuff that doesn’t show up in the stat line, but it will score you runs and win you games.”

What did show up in the stat line were the 7 walks the Hawkeyes drew against just 1 strikeout and the four pitchers Minnesota had to use after their starter, Dalton Sawyer, was chased after 3.1 innings.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with our offense,” coach Rick Heller said. “We battled all weekend long at the plate; I thought we battled as well as have offensively all season long.”

Perhaps the best example of HellerBall offense came during a one-run fourth inning in which the Hawkeyes scored without recording a hit. Iowa drew 2 walks, had a runner reach on a fielder’s choice, employed a double steal, and then senior Eric Toole hit a sac fly to score the runner.

In all, the Hawkeyes put together the most HellerBall game of baseball they’ve played this season in the batter’s box, and with the defense bolstered by the return of Day to the daily lineup at third base, an impressive defensive performance as well.

With one weekend series left in Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes are locked into at least the No. 2 seed with a win. Heller said he knew his team would be in with the games as the season wound down.

“We wanted to compete for the championship, which we have, and we wanted to do it till the last day,” he said.


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