TAMPA, Fla. — South Florida used a nine-run eighth inning to rally from a 4-0 deficit to hand the University of Iowa baseball team a 9-4 season-opening loss Friday night at USF Baseball Stadium.
“There were a lot of positives, but unfortunately, it was a tough ending and a tough way to lose on Opening Day,” said UI head coach Rick Heller.
The Bulls’ late-inning rally spoiled a masterful start from junior Nick Gallagher. In his first career Friday start, the Iowa City, Iowa, native allowed one run on five hits over seven strong innings. Gallagher struck out four, while issuing a single walk, and retired 14 straight at one point.
“Nick gave us a great start,” said Heller. “He pitched tremendous in his first outing of the year against a good team. “We only had one free base heading into the eighth and felt like we were in great shape.”
Gallagher issued his only walk to leadoff the bottom of the eighth. The Bulls proceeded to rough up the Hawkeye bullpen, sending 14 batters to the plate and erupting for nine runs against three Iowa relievers — sophomore Zach Daniels, senior Josh Martsching, and junior Nick Nelsen.
“(Gallagher) was at the end of the line, he was up in the zone and losing velocity, and we felt like it was the right time to get him out in his first start,” Heller said. “We went to the bullpen and it wasn’t their night.”
Daniels (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing four runs (all earned) on three hits in 2/3 of an inning. USF’s D.J. Roberts earned the victory, despite allowing one run in one inning and issuing two walks.
The Hawkeyes jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when senior Mason McCoy tripled and scored on a Robert Neustrom RBI single. Iowa added single runs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth innings to build a 4-0 lead.
Iowa made the score 2-0 in the fifth when junior Chris Whelan doubled before scoring on a Matt Hoeg RBI single to left. Sophomore Mitchell Boe drove on the third run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh, and junior Jake Adam’s RBI on a fielder’s choice knocked in the fourth Hawkeye run of the day.
McCoy paced the Iowa offense, finishing 3-for-4 with a run scored to extend his hitting streak to 14 games dating back to last season. He was one of five Hawkeyes to tally a hit in the opener.
Iowa (0-1) returns to action Saturday for game two of the three-game series. First pitch has been moved up to a 11 a.m. (CT) start because of potential weather in the evening.