Feb. 21, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The University of Iowa baseball team scored all nine of its runs in the final four innings to rally for a 9-4 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Friday afternoon in its Snowbird Baseball Classic opener.
“When it got to be late in the game, and we were down, I didn’t feel like we were pressing,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “I felt like we were confident, and we believed we were going to win. We talked about winning the last three innings. There was a lot of game left, and if we could win the last three, we’d win the game.”
The Hawkeyes took advantage of a pair of Delta Devil throwing errors to score the game’s first run. Senior Taylor Zeutenhorst reached on a one-out error, moved to second on a balk and crossed the plate on a second MVSU error by shortstop Kalik May on a ball off the bat of sophomore Blake Hickman.
After getting through the first five innings unscathed, Mississippi Valley State got to Iowa starter Calvin Mathews in the sixth, pushing three runs across the plate to take a 3-1 advantage. The Delta Devils scored their three runs on four hits and benefited from one Iowa error on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt.
The Hawkeyes got one run back in the seventh inning courtesy of an RBI single from junior Jake Yacinich to score junior Eric Toole. Iowa’s bats then exploded, scoring seven runs on seven hits in the eighth and ninth innings.
Junior Jake Riffice started the eighth-inning rally with a one-out walk before Hickman followed with an infield single to put a pair of runners on. Junior Kris Goodman then stepped to the plate and belted a three-run home run over the fence in left field to give the Hawkeyes a 5-3 advantage. The blast was the second of Goodman’s career.
After Mississippi Valley State cut the deficit to 5-4 with a single run in its eighth-inning at-bat, the Hawkeyes put a four-spot on the scoreboard to essentially put the game away. Junior Jake Mangler singled to lead off the inning before scoring on an RBI double by Yacinich.
Yacinich proceeded to steal third base, which put him in position to score on a sacrifice fly by junior pinch-hitter Dan Potempa. Zeutenhorst followed with a triple down the right field line before Hickman capped off the scoring with a mammoth, two-run long ball — his third of home run of the year — to left field, giving Iowa a 9-4 lead.
“A good sign with Blake’s home run is the pitcher had just struck Riffice out on three-straight curve balls, and we’ve been talking about with runners in scoring position, going up and looking for what you think you’re going to get instead of what you want,” said Heller. “(The MVSU pitcher) threw a breaking ball to Blake on the first pitch, and he sat on it and crushed it. It was a good sign for our team, offense, and for Blake’s maturity as a hitter.”
After a long, night-marish day of Thursday travel, Iowa’s offense was sluggish to start the game. Iowa loaded the bases in the first inning, but Delta Devil starter Jonathan Parker induced a 6-3 double-play to end the threat. Iowa got its second hit in the third inning, but had only the two hits in the first 5+ frames.
“It was a rough day, by the time anybody got to sleep it was 6 a.m., and we had to be at the field at 11,” said Heller. “I told the team, whether it was a rough day or not, most people are going to look at it by a win or loss by the box score and nobody is going to care.
“Hopefully it’s a good sign. Last week we got tested with the cold weather and now this week we get tested with tough travel and lack of sleep. We survived, and I couldn’t be happier that we found a way to win on a tough day.”
Freshman Matt Allen threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to post the first victory of his Hawkeye career. Junior Ryan Rumpf recorded the save — the first of his career — allowing one run on a single hit in two innings.
Mathews was solid in the start, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He finished with five strikeouts to a single walk in the contest.
Four Hawkeyes — Toole, Yacinich, Hickman and Goodman — accounted for eight of Iowa’s 11 hits. Toole went 2-for-3 with a run, Yacinich was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, Hickman was 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs, and Goodman went 2-for-4 with a team-high three RBIs. Hickman and Goodman hit Iowa’s fourth and fifth home runs of the season.
Iowa (3-1) returns to action with a Saturday doubleheader, facing St. Bonaventure at 1:30 p.m. (CT) and Ball State at 4:30 p.m.
|Iowa 9, Mississippi Valley State 4||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|W: Allen (IOWA) 1-1|
|L: Case (MVSU) 0-1|
|S: Rumpf (IOWA) 1|