Hawkeyes End 43-Year Drought
For the first time since 1972, the Iowa baseball team can say it won an NCAA Tournament game.
The Hawkeyes defeated Oregon, 3-1, Friday in a first-round regional game played at Missouri State in Springfield. They will face the winner of the game between the host school and Canisius at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Friday’s win was not only the first in the NCAAs for Iowa in 43 years, it was just the fifth all-time by the school. The four previous triumphs came in ’72 when the school made its lone appearance at the College World Series. It was also the Hawkeyes’ 40th victory of this season, the first time that has occurred since ’85.
“We came down here wanting to win the regional. For the program, it’s big for us to get to 40 wins, win a game in the tournament and be able to keep pushing and shoot for more down the road," Iowa Coach Rick Heller said.
Starting pitcher Tyler Peyton tossed 7 1/3 innings of seven-hit, one-run baseball for the second-seeded Hawkeyes. The junior struck out five without issuing a walk to improve to 7-4 on the season. Reliever Nick Hibbing shut the door during the final 1 2/2 innings in earning his eighth save of the year.
Iowa (40-16) matched up with Missouri State on Feb. 21 in Grand Prairie, TX. The Hawkeyes won, 6-5, on Peyton’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.
The Hawkeyes didn’t need any last inning heroics on Friday. They consistently put pressure on Oregon from start to finish. Despite only plating three runs, they stranded 13 men on base, including leaving the bases loaded on three occasions.
“We have won a lot of games like that," Heller said. "We got great pitching. We needed a great start from Tyler and he provided
us with seven plus innings and didn’t walk a batter. It was exactly what we needed.
"Defensively, we played solid and defended Oregon’s pressure attack. I think they did a nice job of not giving up free bases. We
were able to take advantage of free bases, but weren’t able to get the knock out blow and break the game open. We did a great job situationally. We didn’t have a big day offensively, but we scrapped.”
Iowa got on the scoreboard first with a run in the bottom of the second. An infield single by Nick Day played Nick Roscetti.
The Ducks (37-25) tied it at 1-1 in the top of the third but Iowa responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the frame. Peyton singled with one out and scored on a Roscetti groundout.
“I think it was a great answer. You need those kinds of innings when the opposing teams scores and it’s great to get momentum back when you do score,
counteract and get the lead back. I think that pushed us a little to maintain that lead throughout the whole game,” Peyton said.
The Hawkeyes clung to the one-run advantage until the bottom of the fifth inning. A Roscetti fielder’s choice off of Oregon starter Cole Irvin (2-6) plated Jake Mangler, pushing the lead to 3-1.
That would be all that Peyton and Hibbing would need. There was a short rain delay to start the ninth and the Ducks put a couple of runners on base but came up empty.
“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating, but we kept with our approach," Roscetti said of stranding runners. "We didn’t get the one, big knockout punch. We try to do our job, put the ball in play and force them to make a play. You hopesome good things happen and they did.”
Oregon pitchers walked four batters and hit six others. The Ducks totaled 10 hits to Iowa’s six.
“I want to congratulate the Iowa ball club and Coach Heller," Oregon Coach George Horton said. ‘I have great respect for them. We
worked together on a committee awhile back.
"It’s a little bit of a tough pill for us to swallow. Not taking any credit away from their pitchers and their defense. You look at the scoreboard and there’s no errors. I didn’t think we played very well, quite frankly.”