As the weather has warmed up, so have the Iowa bats. A stretch of success that included 14 wins in 17 games made the missed opportunities in today’s game very frustrating. However, this group has the ability to flip a switch and turn a frustrating night into a win. After just one run and nine left on base through six innings, the Hawkeyes exploded for eight runs in the last three innings to earn a 9-4 comeback victory against the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Hawkeyes got a run on the board in the second inning when Indiana RF Devin Taylor uncorked a wild throw to the plate that allowed Kyle Huckstorf to score. Outside of that, the story of the first six innings was Iowa missing out on opportunities where they had runners on base. They left nine runners on base and were just 1/9 with runners in scoring position. They continued to grind out at-bats and forced Hoosiers starter Luke Sinnard out of the game after 117 pitches.
The Hawkeyes sent Brody Brecht to the mound, but Indiana cashed in on free bases over the first two innings to take the lead. A walk and hit by pitch to open the first inning put Brecht in immediate trouble. A double from Brock Tibbitts over the head of Frazier in right field plated two runs to make it 2-0 Hoosiers.
In the second inning, a hit by pitch and a single put Brody into another threatening situation. After a wild pitch brought in the Hoosiers third run, he was able to get a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. As rough as the first two innings were, Brecht was able to settle in and retire six of seven in the third and fourth innings to settle things down. He departed in the fifth inning with runners on the corners, but Jared Simpson came on in relief and got the final out of the inning. Brecht allowed three runs on four hits and walked three, but got through 4.2 innings.
Simpson gave Rick Heller just one inning of relief and left the game with runners on the corners and two outs. Will Christophersen came in from the bullpen, but Phillip Glasser delivered an RBI single to extend the Indiana lead to 4-1. Through six innings, it appeared that the Hoosiers were going to win another low scoring contest over the Hawkeyes. On this day, the Iowa offense flipped a switch and turned the game on its head.
With Sinnard out of the game, Iowa got runners on first and second for the third straight inning. This time it was against reliever Craig Yoho and this time the offense broke through. Sam Hojnar ripped a 107 mph RBI single into right field to drive in Brennen Dorighi and cut the deficit to 4-2. That prompted another pitching change from Indiana HC Jeff Mercer.
Connor Foley entered the game and walked Michael Seegers to bring up Kyle Huckstorf with the bases loaded. Huckstorf lit up Indiana last year with an unforgettable three homer, 12-RBI game. He ambushed a first pitch fastball for a double that got all the way to the wall in left field and cleared the bases to give Iowa a 5-4 advantage.
After allowing am RBI single in the sixth inning, Will Christophersen came back out and was absolutely dominant. He struck out six, walked zero and threw 26 of his 34 (76.5%) pitches for strikes over 2.1 innings.
Although the Hawkeyes felt like all the momentum was in their favor, they added on in the top of the ninth to make things comfortable going into the Hoosiers half of the ninth. Ben Wilmes drove in Brayden Frazier with an RBI single to make it 6-4 and then Sam Petersen delivered a second knockout blow of the tournament. His three run homer made it 9-4.
Jack Whitlock came on for the final three outs and sat down the Hoosiers 1-2-3 to clinch the Hawkeyes 41st victory of the season. They now advance to Saturday’s semifinals, where the winners of Indiana and Michigan will need to beat the Hawkeyes twice to reach Sunday’s championship game.