March 20, 2015
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By BEN SCHMITZ
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Hawkeyes’ two-run ninth-inning rally came up just short on Friday night as the University of Iowa baseball team dropped a 4-3 decision to Kansas at Hoglund Ballpark. With the loss, Iowa falls to 12-5, while the Jayhawks improve to 9-12.
“It was one of those nights where they nickel and dimed us,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “They had six infield singles and found holes. Our guys played great defense and pitched outstanding. Tyler Peyton had his best out this entire year going into the seventh.
“It was a game where you hate to lose those battles. They gave us some free bases and we struggled offensively and couldn’t take advantage of them.”
Kansas tallied the game’s first run in the bottom of the first, starting with a Connor McKay infield single. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Michael Tinsley delivered — connecting on a double to right field that sent McKay in for the 1-0 lead.
The Jayhawks extended their advantage with a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Owen Taylor and Justin Protacio did the heavy lifting for the home team in the bottom of the frame, both reaching on a pair of singles. Owen would eventually cross home plate for the 2-0 advantage.
Facing a two-run deficit, the Hawkeye bats answered in the top of the fifth. Senior Nick Day got things started after working a 3-2 count for s free base. Senior Eric Toole followed up with a double to left center that put the duo in scoring position. Senior Jake Mangler kept the momentum rolling with a hard-hit grounder to the right side — bringing Day home to narrow the deficit, 2-1.
A two-run Jayhawk seventh inning left the Hawkeyes trailing, 4-1, going into the top of the ninth. Timely base running paired with back-to-back singles from Toole and Mangler brought the Iowa bats back to life.
With runners in scoring position, junior Tyler Peyton came through with a clutch two-out, two-RBI single through the left side — bringing the Hawkeyes to within a run, 4-3.
Toole’s two hits extend the Council Bluff, Iowa, native’s streak of reaching base safely to 16 games, which includes a nine-game hitting streak.
Jayhawk reliever Stephen Villines eventually settlef in and closef the door on the Iowa rally, collecting the third out with a strikeout to retire the side.
“It was a disappointing night offensively,” said Heller. “When we did get runners in scoring position we had strikeouts at bad times and bad at-bats. At the same time, you need to tip your cap to their starting pitcher. He did a good job at changing speeds and credit to their reliever. He’s one of the best sidearm pitchers I’ve seen in a long time.”
Peyton (2-2) started the game and was charged with the loss after 6 1/3 innings on the hill. The right-hander surrendered three runs on nine hits and recorded nine strikeouts — the second most of his career.
“Tyler was outstanding,” said Heller. “He had his best outing all season. His fastball was low 90s all night long. There were a couple bad pitches he’d like to have back that resulted in some runs, but for the most part it was our lack of offense that caused the loss tonight.”
Heller went to the bullpen in the seventh inning, relieving Peyton for the night. Junior Ryan Erickson entered with one out in the seventh and finished the inning. Senior Brandon Shulista took care of the eighth with a three-up,three-down performance.
UI junior Blake Hickman is expected to start on the mound tomorrow afternoon.
“Blake’s going to have to be down in the zone, changing his speeds, and have command of his changeup,” said Heller. “This is a very good offensive team, and they’re very potent. If you make a mistake they’ll make you pay.”
The Hawkeyes return to action tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. (CT) for the second of the three-game series.