Iowa baseball rallies late to defeat Illinois 5-4 at Banks Field
Iowa scores three runs in eighth inning
IOWA CITY, Iowa – In classic Banks Magic fashion, the University of Iowa baseball team scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to upend Illinois, 5-4, in the series opener at Duane Banks Field.
Redshirt senior Ben Norman’s game-winning, two-out triple in the bottom of the eighth improved Iowa’s record to 22-14 and dropped Illinois to 16-19.
“We know that we have that never-give-up attitude,” Norman said. “Having that mentality is huge because you’re never out of a game. You’re always going to keep grinding out your at-bats, taking it one pitch at a time and let the chips fall as they may.”
Iowa’s dramatic win gives head coach Rick Heller 236 wins at Iowa, which are the third most all-time in program history.
After allowing three two-out runs to score in the top of the eighth, Iowa fell behind 4-2 with only six outs to work with.
Redshirt senior Zeb Adreon started the eighth-inning rally with a leadoff walk and came around to score on a Matthew Sosa RBI-double to cut Iowa’s deficit to 4-3. Following an Illinois pitching chance, Sosa advanced to third on failed pickoff attempt.
Still with no outs, Sosa scored and tied the game at four on a towering pop up into shallow left field off the bat of redshirt freshman Brayden Frazier. Illinois retired the next two Hawkeye hitters to bring Norman up to the plate.
Norman, who was 0-for-4 on the day, delivered the game-winning RBI on a triple to deep right field to score Frazier from second and give Iowa a 5-4 lead.
Nedved, who started the game at second base and relieved Trace Hoffman in the top of the eighth, retired the side in the top of the ninth to improve to 4-0 on the season.
“As soon as we took the lead back, I had full confidence in myself,” Nedved said. “It’s the flip of a switch. Anything that puts you down, you have to get right back up.”
Redshirt junior starting pitcher Trenton Wallace was saddled with a no-decision. The Rock Island, Illinois, limited the Illinois offense to only three hits over six innings of work. His lone blemish was a solo home run in the top of the fifth. Wallace exited the game with nine strikeouts and a 2-1 lead before handing the ball over to the Iowa bullpen.
Iowa scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second on a Nedved sacrifice fly that scored Adreon. In the bottom of the fifth, redshirt senior Austin Martin laced a two-out, RBI-single up the middle to drive in redshirt freshman Peyton Williams.
Iowa led 2-1 before Illinois’ three-run eighth inning. After Iowa recorded a double play on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Hoffman walked back-to-back hitters, forcing Heller to go to Nedved. An Illinois double to the right field gap, followed by a soft single up the middle gave the Illini a short-lived 4-2 lead.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“The guys have been coming back all season, but tonight it was good to see the confidence and belief we could do it and the toughness and grit to get it done.
“It has to be culture. You play hard and you don’t look at the scoreboard. You just keep playing. When you buy into that, it gives you a chance to come back in these games when it looks like you’re out of it.
“Today the eighth inning was deflating, but if you keep playing, it’s tough to get those last three outs. They’re never easy. When you’re disciplined and not wasting at-bats, you put pressure on them to throw it in the strike zone. That’s how the inning started, Zeb took a walk against a good arm and the pressure starts to turn a little bit. There’s no magic to it, it’s just guys not quitting.”
• Iowa has won seven consecutive series openers dating to March 26. It was the fifth time the Hawkeyes have rallied in the sixth inning or later in the contest.
• Iowa’s 22 conference wins ties a school record. In 1990, the Hawkeyes went 22-6 in conference play in route to a Big Ten regular season title.
• The Hawkeyes have overcome deficits in 15 games this season, going 11-4 in such games.
• Iowa finished with 10 hits, its 15th game this season with 10 or more hits.
• Fullard notched is team-leading 14th multi-hit game. He has 12 multi-hit contests over Iowa’s last 16 games to push his average to a team-leading .328.
• Wallace has allowed two or fewer runs in eight starts this season and he struck out nine batters – his eighth game with eight or more strikeouts. The southpaw moved past Jack Bruner (1948), Cole McDonald (2019), Mike Boddicker (1977), and Nick Gallagher into fifth place in single season strikeouts with 89.
Tomorrow’s game two is set for a 2:05 p.m. (CT) first pitch at Duane Banks Field. The game will be streamed on BTN+ (subscription required).