By AUSTIN BRAMLEY
MINNEAPOLIS —The University of Iowa baseball team hit three home runs to hand Oral Roberts a 7-5 defeat on Saturday afternoon at the DQ Classic at U.S. Bank Stadium. Juniors Jake Adams and Matt Hoeg and freshman Ben Norman hit home runs to send the Hawkeyes to their sixth victory of the season.
“It was nice to see our offense come out and put offense on the board early,” said UI head coach Rick Heller.
For the second game in a row, Adams got the Hawkeyes going. The first baseman blasted a three-run shot to center field to knock in sophomores Chris Whelan and Robert Neustrom and give Iowa a 3-0 lead. Adams has hit home runs in consecutive games, giving him four on the year.
“Jake is swinging the bat really well,” said Heller. “Up-and-down the lineup our guys were doing a good job and giving us great at-bats.”
The Hawkeyes extended their lead in the fourth when Hoeg blasted his first home run of the year to left field.
Oral Roberts put pressure on Iowa in the sixth, closing to within a run at 5-4. The Golden Eagles scored two runs on three hits that was sparked by a Matt Whatley ground-rule double.
Iowa added insurance runs in the eighth. Hoeg drew a two-out walk before Norman connected on a two-run blast to right field for his first career home run. Norman also singled in the sixth inning, plating Hoeg, who singled up the middle to lead off the inning.
“Ben Norman has been swinging the bat extremely,” said Heller. “He’s taking what they are giving him and finding ways to get on base. He delivered late in the game as well, giving us a big two-run home run with two outs to give us some cushion.”
The Hawkeyes had 10 hits on the day, led by Norman, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Whelan (2-for-4), Neustrom (2-for-5), and Hoeg (2-for-3, 3 runs) all had two hits on the day. Neustrom extended his hitting streak to a career-best nine games — hitting safely in every game of the 2017 season.
Iowa starter Cole McDonald (2-1) earned his second win of the season, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on four hits. He struck out four batters. Senior Ryan Erickson notched the save — his first of the season — allowing one run on one hit over three innings. He struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
“Cole battled for us,” Heller said. “He did a good job of logging some innings on a day where he didn’t have great command.”
The Hawkeyes (6-3) close out the DQ Classic on Sunday, facing host Minnesota in a nonconference game at 3 p.m. (CT).