No line out to the third baseman this time.
Scoring six runs in the seventh inning, the Iowa baseball team defeated Minnesota 7-6 on Sunday afternoon at Duane Banks Field, winning the three-game series. Iowa (22-15, 7-8 Big Ten) lost the weekend opener on Friday 4-3 before recording a 11-5 comeback win Saturday to set up Sunday’s important contest. The Hawkeyes had 22 wins all of last season.
Dan Potempa’s go-ahead three-run home run highlighted the seventh, as six runs scored on six hits. Ten batters came to the plate in the frame. Nick Day, Eric Toole and Jake Yacinich all had singles while Taylor Zeutenhorst had a double. Kris Goodman smashed an RBI-double off the left field wall as well. Potempa added an RBI double in the eighth.
“I think it was big that we found a way to win that game,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “It helps us out a ton in the standings. From a confidence standpoint, guys start believing. You can preach to play every pitch and every game no matter what the score, but unless you have some success coming back and seeing the results, sometimes it gets tough.
“(The seventh inning) is exactly what we needed to get things going.”
Prior to a bevy of offense in the seventh, the Hawkeyes’ best scoring chances came in the fourth, and fifth, and sixth, and each inning eerily ended the same way. With at least one runner in scoring position and two outs, Goodman hit a line drive right at Minnesota third baseman Tony Skjefte to end the fourth, and Yacinich and Nick Roscetti also lined out to third in the fifth and sixth, respectively.
Weird, but Heller’s squad was able to register one of its biggest innings of the season in the seventh.
“You have to stick to the plan,” Potempa said. “Those line drives were going to fall for us eventually. Think opposite field, react in, and good things will happen.”
Tyler Peyton exited after 6.1 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out two in the start on the mound for Iowa. He retired seven batters in a row at one stage. Nick Hibbing (2-1) followed out of the bullpen, throwing 2.1 innings. Tyler Radtke got the final out of the game for his second save.
Minnesota (19-16, 6-9) posted single runs in the first, third and seventh, and three in the ninth.
“(Peyton) really labored,” Heller said. “He just couldn’t locate his fastball, he had to primarily rely on his changeup and slider. … It wasn’t his best outing, but he kept us in the game.”
Heading into Sunday’s action, Iowa and Minnesota were tied for seventh place in the Big Ten. The top eight teams advance to the Big Ten Tournament next month in Omaha. With just three conference series remaining — at Ohio State May 3-5, home against Illinois May 9-11, and at Purdue May 15-17 — Sunday’s victory could pay big dividends moving forward.
Either way, matching last year’s win total already is a step in the right direction as the program continues to accelerate under Heller and Co.
“We’re having a lot fun this year; it’s been a good journey with coach Heller,” sadi Zeutenhorst, a senior. “He’s keeping us even keeled. We have the same approach every day, and nothing changes. We’ve had some down times this year, some bad losses, but we come back every time.”