May 25, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
OMAHA, Neb. — Senior Joel Booker tied a University of Iowa, Big Ten Tournament, and TD Ameritrade Park record with five hits in the Hawkeyes’ 8-2 victory over top-seeded Minnesota on Wednesday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hawkeyes (28-25) belted out 18 hits in the game with seven of the nine starters tallying at least one hit. Booker finished 5-for-5 with an RBI and run scored and reached in all six of his plate appearances. Senior Tyler Peyton was 4-for-6 — tying a career-high — with two runs and an RBI. He was a home run short of the cycle.
“I am seeing the ball well,” said Booker “…but I got some help from the baseball Gods. I didn’t barrel many balls up today, but they found holes and dropped.”
Sophomore Austin Guzzo was 3-for-5 with a two-run double, while junior Mason McCoy (2-for-6, 2 RBIs) and senior Daniel Aaron Moriel (2-for-3) both had two-hit games. Iowa has had 10 or more hits in three straight and four of the last five contests.
“It was a great night for us,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “The guys came out focused and we stuck to our plan. We were dialed in and hit the ball hard, but we had some breaks. That’s how baseball goes.
“I would have liked to see us score more runs, we stranded quite a few. The focus and effort was there for nine innings. That’s the important thing, you’re not going to see the balls always fall like they did tonight, but you can show up with that intent.”
The Hawkeyes got things going from the get-go, jumping out to a 5-0 lead through two innings and knocking Gopher pitcher Matt Fiedler out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings. The Hawkeyes handed Fiedler — the Big Ten Player of the Year — his first loss since March 11.
Senior Nick Roscetti started the first-inning rally with a one-out walk before Booker reached on an infield single to put two runners on. With two down, Guzzo barreled up a ball for a two-run double to center field to give Iowa a 2-0 advantage.
Following a 1-2-3 bottom half, Iowa extended its lead with a two-out rally in the second. Following a triple from Peyton, Roscetti made the score 3-0 with an RBI single through the right side, Booker reached on an infield single, and McCoy stretched the lead to 5-0 with a two-run base hit to right center field.
“I don’t think they saw that coming at all. You have the Big Ten Player of the Year on the mound for them, they won the Big Ten title, the coach of the year … they had everything going,” said Peyton. “We caught them by surprise.”
With the run-support, sophomore C.J. Eldred (3-8) provided the Hawkeyes with a quality start, scattering six hits and allowing just two earned runs in seven innings. He had five strikeouts to two walks to record his first win since March 25.
“To jump out with a lead like that, especially against a team like Minnesota, a good ball club — that definitely does help you relax,” said Eldred.
“C.J. was outstanding,” said Heller.
Minnesota’s only offense came in the third inning when the first two hitters reached via a walk and single. After Dan Motl lined into a double play when freshman right fielder Robert Neustrom snared a line drive, Connor Schaefbauer hit a two-run home run to right center field to make the score 5-2.
The Hawkeyes widened the gap in the fifth, pushing their lead to 8-2. Peyton doubled down the left field line to plate the sixth run, Roscetti had a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-2, and Booker singled in the final run with an RBI base hit to right field.
The top three seeds in the tournament — Minnesota, No. 2 Nebraska, and No. 3 Indiana — all fell on Wednesday, while Michigan and Ohio State were playing in the night cap.
“Everybody in this tournament knew that anybody could beat anybody,” said Heller. “Everybody was hoping to get off to a good start and win game one then game two is important if you want to make a run. If you get those two you’re sitting pretty well.
“That’s where want to be, we didn’t want to be here just to be in the tournament, we wanted to try to win the thing. We looked at this as a fresh start; the guys answered the bell tonight.”
The Hawkeyes will face the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game Thursday at 9 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on BTN.