In pitching seven scoreless innings against Northwestern on Saturday, Iowa junior Blake Hickman showed that he could succeed even without his best stuff.
He also showed that he could handle pain.
Hickman withstood a vicious blow on his left triceps from a line drive in the fifth inning to lead Iowa to a 13-4 victory in the first game of a doubleheader at Banks Field. The ball deflected off Hickman and was caught by Iowa second baseman Jake Mangler, who then threw to first base before the runner could get back, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
“It’s funny because I was laying there and looked up and saw three outs, and I was like, maybe they got it wrong or something,” Hickman said. “So I was like alright, it was a double play. I was like, sweet. Maybe that needs to happen a little bit more.”
Hickman, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound native of Chicago, left the game after throwing 115 pitches, his most in one appearance as a Hawkeye. He improved his record to 6-1 in his first season as a full-time starter.
Northwestern bounced back to win second-game 4-1. The game was delayed for approximately three hours because of lightning.
It was only Iowa’s second loss in the Big Ten this season. The Hawkeyes are 26-11 overall and 10-2 in the conference under second-year coach Rick Heller.
“I think in the first couple of innings I didn’t have everything working well for me,” said Hickman, who finished with three strikeouts. “I just tried fighting through it the first couple of innings, and keep working with my (catcher).”
Hickman did have a potent offense working well for him, though, as Iowa pounded 13 hits in the first game, which lasted over three hours.
Senior third baseman Kris Goodman, who batted ninth for the Hawkeyes, smacked a 2-run home run in the second inning and also had a double while driving in three runs.
“When you see the guys swinging the bats like that, it makes my job much easier,” Hickman said.
Hickman collapsed on the mound after being hit by a line drive off the bat of Northwestern’s Zach Jones. An eerie silence fell over the stadium as trainers examined Hickman.
He then received a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 1,961 after standing up and jogging to his dugout.
“At the time you don’t feel it because my adrenaline was going,” Hickman said. “But it sucks right now. But at the time, it felt fine. I went down to the bullpen and threw a couple pitches and it didn’t bother me at all.”
Hickman was determined to stay in the game after being hit by the line drive.
“Nothing was taking me out of the game,” he said. “They talked about it and just asked if I was okay and everything. But nothing was taking me out of the game.”
A converted catcher, Hickman still is adjusting to his new role as a starting pitcher. He was pleased to have thrown so many pitches without losing his effectiveness.
“That’s the most I’ve ever thrown,” said Hickman, who walked three batters. “It’s nice to see how far you can go and how sharp your pitches can be at those points. I felt pretty good coming into that last inning.”
Northwestern scored all four of its runs off relief pitcher Jared Mandel. He pitched the last two innings for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa’s next game is Wednesday against Northern Illinois at Banks Field.