Iowa baseball earns another day off in Omaha with 9-4 come-from-behind win over Indiana
By Pat Harty
The Iowa baseball team has earned another day off in Omaha, and did so in dramatic fashion.
Three-seed Iowa scored four runs in the seventh inning, and four in the ninth, and its bullpen held two-seed Indiana scoreless over the final three innings to secure a 9-4 come-from-behind victory in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kyle Huckstorf smacked a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning to give Iowa a 5-4 lead and then Sam Petersen belted a three-run home run in the ninth, expanding the lead to 9-4.
Iowa now gets to enjoy its second day off in the tournament with its next game not until Saturday morning.
A victory on Saturday would earn Iowa a spot in the championship game on Sunday.
“It would mean everything to us,” Huckstorf said about the chance of reaching the title game. “We’ve worked so hard to this point.”
The Hawkeyes were also off on Wednesday after having crushed Michigan 13-3 in eight innings in the first game on Tuesday.
Iowa improved to 41-13 overall with Thursday’s win and is just three wins from tying the school record for most wins in a season.
Sophomore Brody Brecht started on the mound for Iowa and struggled early with his control.
But he also avoiding a big inning and kept the score close before Rick Heller turned to his bullpen with two outs in the fifth, and with Iowa trailing 3-1.
Will Christophersen was the star from the bullpen as he struckout five straight batters in the seventh and eighth innings.
Iowa impoved to 31-0 this season when leading after eight innings.
“Today, Brody wasn’t crazy sharp, but he limited the damage and logged some innings and saved the bullpen and then Christophersen was outstanding,” Rick Heller said on the Big Ten Network post-game interview. “That was good to see. Everybody will be rested and ready to go.”
Heller confirmed after Thursday’s win that Ty Langenberg would get the start for Iowa on the mound Saturday.
Indiana was leading 3-1 in the sixth with two outs when Phillip Glasser smacked a run-scoring single off Christophersen, who had just entered the game.
Christophersen then recorded a strikeout to end the inning, but Iowa now trailed 4-1 heading to the seventh.
It would be up to Indiana’s bullpen to secure the win for ace pitcher Luke Sinnard, who pitched the first six innings and allowed just one unearned run.
Sinnard’s bullpen let him down, however, as Iowa scored eight runs after Sinnard had left the game.
“We just needed something to go our way and it turns out the change of pitchers was the turning point,” Huckstorf said on the Big Ten Network post-game interview.
The Hawkeyes put runners on first and second and had the tying run at the plate when Sam Hojnar came to bat with one out in the top of the seventh to face Craig Yoho.
Hojnar then belted a single to right field with two strikes, driving in Brennen Dorighi for Iowa’s second run.
Indiana turned to its bullpen again in an attempt to limit the damage as Connor Foley replaced Yoho with one out, and with runners at the corners.
Iowa shortstop Michael Seegers then walked to load the bases, and that also set the stage for Huckstorft, who cleared the bases with a double, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead.
Huckstorf then stole third base, but was tagged out at home plate while trying to score on Brayden Frazier’s ground ball to shortstop.
The Hoosiers were now playing from behind for the first time in the game and were down to just nine outs heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Christopherson cruised through the seventh as he faced just three batters and recorded two strikeouts to retire the side.
Iowa loaded the bases in the top of the first with no outs, but then failed to score as Luke Sinnard worked out of the jam by recording three straight outs.
Brecht then walked the first batter he faced in the bottom of the first and then hit a batter to set the stage for Brock Tibbitts, who smacked a line drive to right field that appeared to be misjudged by Iowa right fielder Brayden Frazier.
The ball sailed over Frazier’s glove and rolled to the fence as both runs scored.
Brecht kept the damage to just two runs, but it took him 36 pitches to retire the side.
Iowa then sliced the 2-0 deficit in half in the top of the second as Kyle Huckstorf led off with a single to right field and then later scored on a wild throw by Indiana right fielder Devin Taylor.
Brecht then hit the first batter he faced in the second inning and gave up a single to the second batter, putting runners on first and second.
Both runners then advanced on a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third base.
Indiana then scored its third run on a wild pitch.
Brecht finally worked out of the jam by recording a strikeout for the third out.
However, Iowa trailed 3-1 after two innings and Brecht already had thrown over 50 pitches.
So, there was an early hill to climb against an opponent that had won eight of its previous 10 games, but there was also plenty of time to chip away at the deficit.
Iowa threatened to score in the fourth, putting runners on first and second with just one out.
But Sinnard also worked out of that jam, keeping the score at 3-1.
Brecht cruised through the bottom of the fourth as he needed just nine pitches to record all three outs.
Iowa threatened again in the fifth, putting runners on first and second with two outs, and with Sam Hojnar coming to the plate.
Sinnard quelled this potential rally by getting Hojnar to fly out to left field for the third out.
Indiana had runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth when Brecht was removed from the game after having thrown 94 pitches.
The Ankeny native allowed four hits, recorded five strikeouts, and walked three batters over 4 2/3 innings.
Southpaw Jared Simpson replaced Brecht on the mound to face left-handed batter Carter Mathison.
Simpson’s first pitch nearly sailed over the head of catcher Cade Moss, but Simpson got Mathison to ground out to second to end the inning, keeping the deficit at two runs.
Iowa put runners on second and third in the sixth with two outs, but Sinnard once again worked out of the jam by getting Cade Moss to fly out to right field.
Iowa left nine runners on base through six innings.
Indiana then turned to its bullpen in the seventh and thet’s when everything fell apart for the Hoosiers, who won two of three games against Iowa during the regular season.
Sinnard pitched nine scoreless innings against Iowa in the regular season, and he was effective again in Thursday’s game.
He needed help from his bullpen, however, and that just didn’t happen as the Iowa bats came alive late in the game.
Iowa played its 12th straight games without one of its top hitters, third-year sophomore Keaton Anthony, and three other players that are linked to an investigation into sports wagering.
But as has been the case so often this season, Iowa found yet another way to win.
Petey, you are cleared for take off!#Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/LoBpGYfaCZ
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 25, 2023