March 8, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee’s Jake Ingold hit a walk-off, game-winning grand slam to complete a six-run ninth inning comeback to down the University of Iowa baseball team, 9-8, in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
“We thought we were in great shape with the bonus run we scored in the ninth, but (Tyler) Radtke came in and unfortunately didn’t have it,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “He walked three guys and that sets things up for a nightmare finish, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Hawkeyes cruised into the ninth inning, putting up a season-high eight runs to take a five-run lead into the final half inning. Ironically, the Blue Raiders scored six runs in their final at-bat — more runs than the UI pitching staff had surrendered in a game all season.
It started with a pair of free bases with MTSU putting its first two runners on base against Radtke via a walk and Iowa fielding error. After getting the first out of the frame, Dustin Delgado and Jared Allen both drew walks — the second forcing in a run to cut the Blue Raider deficit to 8-4.
The Hawkeyes went to the bullpen, bringing in senior Brandon Shulista, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Michael Adkins, making the score 8-5. After recording the second out of the inning via a strikeout, Ingold drilled an 0-2 pitch to the short porch in left field to send the Blue Raiders to the victory.
“If you walk guys leading off an inning, it’s going to come back to haunt you,” said Heller. “We had an error that was costly, and if the play is made, you win the game. We made a horrible mistake on an 0-2 pitch that gets hit for a grand slam to lose the game.
“You make mistakes like that, it doesn’t matter who you are or where or who you are, you’re going to get beat. Hopefully we can learn from it. This one is going to hurt for a while. It’s one you can’t get back and you feel like you gave it away.
“We had a chance to sweep a good team on the road. Now it’s going to be a long bus ride home.”
Shulista (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing two unearned runs on two hits in 1/3 of an inning. Middle Tennessee’s Nathan Foriest (1-0) was the pitcher of record, allowing one run on two hits over two innings.
Iowa spotted starter Calvin Mathews a four run lead in its first at-bat, scoring four runs on three hits and two Blue Raider errors. Senior Eric Toole led off the game with a triple to right center and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of senior Jake Mangler. Freshman Austin Guzzo made the score 2-0 with a one-out RBI single to right field, and junior Joel Booker pushed the lead to 4-0 with a two-run single to left field.
The Hawkeyes extended their advantage to 7-0 in their second at-bat with Toole starting the rally with a leadoff single to centerfield. Following a one-out Tyler Peyton single and a Kris Goodman walk to load the bases, Guzzo knocked in the first run with a sacrifice fly to centerfield, and Booker drove in his third and fourth runs with a two-run single to right centerfield.
“I was happy with how we came out and swung the bats, the best we have this year,” said Heller. “It was a real positive to see us come out and jump on a guy and put some runs on the board. You put a seven spot on the board and you are usually in a good spot with our pitching staff.”
After tallying just three hits over the first four innings against Mathews, the Blue Raiders got things going against senior reliever Nick Hibbing in the fifth. Kevin Dupree led off the frame with a double, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an RBI groundout. Ronnie Jabavy followed with a one-out triple before scoring on a two-run long ball from Allen, cutting the deficit to 8-3.
The Hawkeyes tacked on their final run in the top of the ninth. Senior Dan Potempa led off the frame with a pinch-hit double, and pinch-runner Devin Pickett scored on an RBI single from senior Sean Moore.
Iowa finished the game with 11 hits — its third 10-plus hit game this season. Toole led the way with four hits, going 4-for-4 with a double, triple, and two runs scored. Booker finished 2-for-4 with a career-best four RBIs.
The Hawkeyes (9-2) return to action Wednesday, hosting AIB in their home opener at Banks Field at 3 p.m. (CT).