PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The University of Iowa baseball team was down to its final strike before erupting for seven runs to take the series opener against Rutgers, 14-12, on Friday afternoon at Bainton Field. The Hawkeyes have won a season-best five straight games.
After Iowa loaded the bases in the ninth, the Hawkeyes were down to their final strike with redshirt sophomore Brendan Sher at the plate.
On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Sher fouled off a pitch that drifted down the right field line behind first base. Rutgers first baseman Jordan Sweeney saw the foul ball carom off his glove, giving Sher new life. On the next pitch, the Indianola, Iowa, native ripped a two-run single to right field to make the score 10-9.
“I got a little more confidence when I saw it fall and thought let’s go,” said Sher. “I was right on the pitch, but I popped it up. I knew I was on it. I wanted to get another good swing off and I knew the guys behind me were going to put good swings on the ball and they did.”
Rutgers went to the bullpen, bringing in Parker Scott in relief. After he plunked Ben Norman to load the bases, redshirt junior Izaya Fullard laced a full-count single up the middle to give the Hawkeyes an 11-10 lead. Redshirt freshman Peyton Williams followed with a two-run triple to center field and redshirt junior Dylan Nedved laced a single up the middle to cap the seven-run ninth.
“We had an active game at the plate,” said Sher. “We knew we weren’t out of it and so did they. It was fun seeing the hitters hit and everyone was flying around and having fun.”
Rutgers made it interesting, plating two runs in the ninth off Nedved and the Scarlet Knights had the tying run at the plate, but he got Chris Brito to ground out to Sher at shortstop to end the game.
Iowa jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Norman hit a solo blast to right field on the second pitch of the game for his eighth home run of the season. Rutgers took its first lead in the second on a two-run double from Kevin Welsh.
The Hawkeyes put up a three spot in the third, courtesy of a Zeb Adreon two-run single, but Rutgers responded with a three-run fourth when Ryan Lasko hit a blast to left field. Iowa used a two-run sixth, getting RBIs from Nedved and Martin to take a 6-5 lead, but Rutgers scored five runs in the sixth and seventh innings to build a 10-6 lead.
Rutgers got to Iowa starter Trenton Wallace early, tagging him for five runs on four hits over four innings. Wallace issued six walks and had five strikeouts in the game. Senior Trace Hoffman (2-0) earned the win, allowing two runs on two hits over three innings.
Iowa finished with 14 hits with five players posting multi-hit games and multi-RBI games. Williams was 3-for-6 with a double, triple and two RBIs, while Nedved was 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“We were locked in and dialed in all day. We struggled on the mound and usually when that happens on a Friday night, it doesn’t usually bode well for you. We kept scoring and it looked grim in the end and the guys stuck to it.
“We had some guys clutch up throughout the game. It was a strange game; we had a chance to break it open a few times and we didn’t get the hit or didn’t get the run in with less than two outs. It looked like it was going to cost us.
“It was good to see our team fight and do it in a positive way. There was no stress or pressure, they kept playing and focused on the process and let the game come back to them.”
The thing about Rutgers is they are tough kids; they have a good team, and they play hard. They bring up the tying run in the ninth after giving up seven in top of the ninth, a lot of teams would have laid down. We were never safe. It was a crazy game, and I am proud of our guys for continuing to fight.”
– Iowa has overcome deficits in nine games this season. Iowa has won five of the nine games.
– The Hawkeyes’ 14 runs were the second most of the season behind the 18-run outburst against Minnesota on April 11.
– The Hawkeyes’ five-game winning streak matches is the longest since winning five straight during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
– Wallace’s four-inning start snapped a string of nine consecutive starts by Hawkeye pitchers where they lasted five or more innings.
– Norman hit a leadoff home run, the first by a Hawkeye since Matt Hoeg in 2018.
– Norman finished with two hits to tally his team-leading eighth multi-hit game.
The Hawkeyes will play a doubleheader against Rutgers on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. (CT). The first game will be a scheduled seven-inning contest, while game two will be a normal nine-inning affair.