March 21, 2015
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By Ben Schmitz
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The University of Iowa baseball team (13-5) rebounded from its series-opening loss to Kansas (9-13) on Friday night with a 6-4 victory over the Jayhawks in game two on Saturday at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence, Kansas.
“It was a nice win today,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “I thought the guys played well and we had solid a defense. We swung the bats a lot better and it sure was nice to get some hits at the bottom of the order. Nick Roscetti and Nick Day — our eight and nine-hole hitters — combined for five hits in the contest and it was really big in the win.”
The Hawkeyes once again received an outstanding performance from the pitching staff. UI junior Blake Hickman started the game and went 4.2 innings where he allowed four runs on three hits. The Chicago native also fanned five opponents.
Juniors Connor Grant, Luke Vandermaten, and senior Nick Hibbing appeared on the hill in relief. The trio combined for 4.1 innings of shutout work and limited the Jayhawk offense to four hits. Vandermaten (1-0) was credited with his first win as a Hawkeye after 2.1 innings on the mound where he allowed four hits.
“Thank goodness for Luke Vandermaten and Nick Hibbing coming in and neutralizing a game that was going in the opposite direction late,” said Heller. “It was a game that could have gone the wrong way so I tip my hat to those two for saving the game and keeping us in it.”
An early offensive attack gave the Hawkeyes a 3-0 lead to open Saturday’s contest. The Black and Gold benefitted from patient at bats, aggressive base running, and a pair of hits. Seniors Eric Toole and Jake Mangler got things started with back-to-back walks, each by drawing ball four off a 3-1 count for the free base.
With one out and runners in scoring position, junior Joel Booker came through — connecting on a two-RBI single up the middle. The Columbus, North Carolina, native would eventually steal second and score off an Austin Guzzo single to the right side, putting Iowa on top, 3-0.
“Eric Toole and Jake Mangler both had two hits on the day and Joel Booker had a big two-out hit to put us up — which was big after we failed last night to score with runners in scoring position and two outs,” said Heller. “I thought we battled a lot better at the plate today. It was a much better all-around outing with better swings.”
Iowa’s offense would build a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, but it didn’t last long. The Jayhawk bats would eventually tie the game in the bottom of the frame — benefitting from a trio of runs via Justin Protacio, Connor McKay, and Michael Tinsley to even the game at 4-4.
A pair of sixth and eighth inning runs extended a 6-4 lead for the Black and Gold. Toole came through with an RBI-single to bring home Dan Potempa in the sixth and Day lined a single toward the right side advancing senior Nick Roscetti for the two-run lead, 6-4.
“For us to win the game, it was absolutely crucial that we answered quickly after Kansas tied it in the fifth inning,” said Heller. “We fought hard and added on with some quality at bats and took the lead and held on for the win. Overall a great game for us today.”
The Hawkeyes return to action tomorrow at 1 p.m. (CT) for the series finale against Kansas at Hoglund Ballpark.