March 15, 2015
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By BEN SCHMITZ
HOUSTON — The University of Iowa baseball team (10-4) surrendered five runs to Houston Baptist (9-9) and dropped game two of the four-game series, 5-1, Sunday at Husky Field in Houston.
The Iowa bats struggled throughout the game, plating one run on four hits off Houston Baptist’s Matthew McCollough (4-1) who went the distance, tossing a complete nine innings to pick up his fourth win on the season.
“Matthew McCollough pitched an out outstanding game,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “It was proof to anyone out there, if you can throw three pitches for a strike and command both sides of the plate with your fastball, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw. If you can do that, you can win and you can win at all levels.
“Offensively, we had a couple opportunities early and I felt things were going well. We scored a run, we executed, had a nice bunt, and a sacrifice fly. Unfortunately we gave away a three-spot in the bottom of the second and never really threatened again.”
The Hawkeye offense couldn’t get much of anything going on Sunday, but they did manage to attack first in the scoring column — taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Tyler Peyton got things started with a leadoff single to left field. Dan Potempa stepped into an inside pitch to put runners at first and second before Joel Booker advanced the pair on a sacrifice bunt. Sean Moore drove in the lone score, connecting for a sacrifice fly to right center field.
“I tip my hat to the defense Houston Baptist played today,” said Heller. “Any ball we did hit, they made the right plays. We hit a lot of `at them’ balls and that played into it too.
“Their guys came to the plate aggressive and got some good swings off of Blake Hickman. They took advantage of every situation they needed to and did all the right things.”
Iowa starter Blake Hickman (2-1) worked seven innings on the mound where he allowed four runs on seven hits. The right-hander had a solid first inning, retiring three straight Huskies before a bumpy start to the second resulted in a lead change.
Samm Wiggins got things started for Houston Baptist, drawing ball four off a 3-2 count for the free base. Austin Saenz then delivered for the home team, connecting for a two-run shot over the left field wall.
Wiggins again added to the Husky lead in the bottom of the fifth, sending a hard-hit single toward the right side while advancing Zach Nehrir across the plate for a 3-1 advantage.
Jared Mandel relieved Hickman in the top of the eighth inning. The lefty faced four opponents and allowed one run off a base hit and a walk.
Mandel’s lone run extended the Huskies lead, 5-1, in the bottom of the frame. Andrew Alvaraz laid down the sacrifice bunt with runners at the corners. The Hawkeyes went back to the plate in the top of the ninth but were unable to complete the comeback.
Both teams return to action tomorrow for game three of the series at 1 p.m. on Husky field.
“If we come out tomorrow with the energy and focus we had today we’ll be just fine,” said Heller. “We just need to focus like we can and take the right pitches early on in the counts.”