COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The 15th-ranked University of Iowa baseball team scratched across two runs and rode its pitching and defense to a 2-1 series-clinching victory over No. 16 Maryland on Sunday afternoon at Bob "Turtle" Smith Stadium. The win moves Iowa to 23-9 overall and 8-1 in Big Ten play.
The series victory was Iowa’s sixth of the season and third in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes opened league play with series wins over No. 17 Indiana, at Purdue, and at No. 16 Maryland.
"It’s amazing what can happen when you refuse to give up and refuse to give in," said UI head coach Rick Heller. "I couldn’t be prouder of our team and how hard we played today. We found a way to get it done."
Iowa’s bullpen pitched the final four innings with junior Ryan Erickson (2-0) tallying the victory after throwing 1 2/3 shutout innings, surrendering one hit and striking out two. Junior Luke Vandermaten tossed the final 2 1/3, giving up one hit and fanning four en route to his second save.
Junior Calvin Mathews gutted out five innings in the start, giving up one run on four hits. The right-hander hasn’t allowed more than five hits in a single start this season.
After giving up 10 runs in the opener, Iowa’s pitching buckled down, giving up two runs on a combined 10 hits in a pair of victories. The Terrapins enter the weekend averaging 7.4 runs per game.
"It was nice to see our pitchers step up big time," said Heller. "That Maryland team is one of the best offensive teams in the country, and for our pitchers to do what we did this weekend was outstanding."
The Hawkeyes pushed across the game’s first run in the second inning, but missed a chance for more. Junior Joel Booker drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt from starter Kevin Mooney. Three of Iowa’s next four batters drew walks to force in a Booker, giving the Hawkeyes a 1-0 advantage.
After Robert Galligan entered in relief, senior Eric Toole reached on a fielder’s choice, but Nick Day was called out for interference, making the play dead and keeping the bases loaded without a run scoring. Galligan kept the margin 1-0 by getting a strikeout to end the inning.
"We had some opportunities, and we squandered a chance with the bases loaded that cost us a run and possibly multiple runs," said Heller. "It looked like it was going to come back to haunt us, but we found a way to scratch a run late and get a win."
The Terrapins tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, courtesy of a Brandon Lowe solo home run — his ninth of the season — off Mathews. Jose Caus also had a two-out double to left field in the inning, but Mathews got Anthony Papio to fly out to left to end the inning and his day.
The Hawkeyes took advantage of a Maryland throwing error in the seventh to plate the go-ahead run. Day reached and advanced to second on a throwing error by Kevin Smith to lead off the inning before Eric Toole laid down a bunt single to put runners on the corners.
Senior Jake Mangler grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Day scored on the play, giving the Hawkeyes a 2-1 advantage.
Iowa went to Vandermaten with two outs in the seventh, and the right-hander promptly plunked Cuas — the first batter he faced — to put two runners on. Vandermaten avoided damage, getting Papio to hit a lazy grounder to first to end the inning.
Vandermaten struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth, gave up a one-out single to Lowe in the ninth, before striking out the final two Terrapin batters to close out the series win.
Iowa finished with five hits in the game, but the Hawkeyes drew five walks and executed when it mattered.
"We’re not in a great place offensively, but we’re finding a way to win, which is what great teams do," said Heller. "Our pitching and defense is carrying us, and there is no question in my mind that once we get home for a while, the bats are going to come back around."
Mooney lasted just 1 1/3 inning, allowing one run on one hit. He had three strikeouts, but issued four walks. Galligan (0-2) suffered the loss, allowing one unearned run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, fanning five to just one walk.
Iowa (23-9, 8-1) will play a pair of midweek games — April 14 at Bradley and April 15 vs. Cornell College — before hosting Northwestern for a three-game series from April 17-19 at Banks Field.
"We need everyone to come out and support us," said Heller. "We have 10 of our next 11 games at home."