May 15, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A three-run first inning and a strong afternoon from three University of Iowa pitchers propelled the Hawkeyes to a 5-1 series-clinching victory over Michigan State on a Senior Day Sunday afternoon at Duane Banks Field.
“I am proud of the guys,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “We played hard and scored some runs early off a really good pitcher; we beat a really good guy today. We got a little help, but we were able to take advantage of it.”
Iowa won two of three games to win the crucial Big Ten series, keeping its hopes alive for the 2016 Big Ten Tournament. The win evens the team’s record at 24-24 overall and 10-11 in league play.
The Hawkeye seniors accounted for eight of the team’s nine hits on the day. Seniors Tyler Peyton (2-for-4, run), Joel Booker (2-for-3, two runs), and Daniel Aaron Moriel (2-for-3, run) all had two-hit games.
On the mound, senior right-handed pitcher Calvin Mathews retired the first 11 batters he faced before issuing a walk and allowing a fourth-inning single. He turned it over to senior Ryan Erickson (2-1), who went four innings to pick up his second win. The southpaw allowed one run on three hits and fanned two.
Freshman Zach Daniels got the final four outs to close out the game. It was his fourth save of the season.
“I was happy for Calvin,” said Heller. “He has been such a vital part of the program the last four years and to see him go out there and have success in his last time on the mound at home made us feel good. He did exactly what we needed, shortening the game to get to Erickson.
“We were missing Nick Gallagher this weekend with injury, so we were a little short-handed. Ryan stepped up and Daniels was good at the end.”
The Hawkeyes took advantage of three Michigan State errors in the first inning to seize the early momentum. Peyton singled and moved to second on a throwing error to lead off the game before senior Nick Roscetti followed with a single to left field.
Spartan outfielder Marty Bechina misplayed the ball and it rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Roscetti to score on a three-base error, making the score 2-0. Booker drew a walk, stole second, and moved to third when junior Mason McCoy reached on the third Spartan error of the frame.
Iowa’s final run came on a delayed steal when McCoy took off and got in a run-down. He stayed in the pickle long enough for Booker to slide safely into home safely, pushing the Hawkeye lead to 3-0.
The Hawkeyes added to their lead in the fifth with a three-hit inning. Booker and Moriel had back-to-back singles to lead off the frame before moving up a base on a sacrifice bunt from senior John Barrett. McCoy extended the lead to 5-0 with an RBI single off to center field against MSU reliever Dakota Mekkes.
Michigan State broke onto the scoreboard with a three-hit inning in the eighth. Dan Durkin’s fielder’s choice plated Jordan Zimmerman, cutting the deficit to 5-1. The Spartans proceeded to load the bases with two outs, but Daniels got out of the jam, striking out Dan Chmielewski swinging to end the inning.
Spartan starter Cam Vieaux (6-4) suffered the loss. He allowed five runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and striking out eight.
The Hawkeyes return to action Tuesday, traveling to Macomb, Illinois, for their final midweek game at Western Illinois. Iowa travels to Penn State next weekend with its postseason fate in its hands.
“We have played well at home and we have to do a better job on the road,” said Heller. “It won’t be easy; Penn State plays well at home, it’s a long trip, a short week, so the guys are going to have to tough it out and play their best baseball, but I know the guys will.
“They will go out and do a good job and we will be ready.”