By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team scored seven runs over the final three innings to rally from a 6-5 deficit to defeat Northern Illinois, 12-8, on Tuesday at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes had 15 hits in the game.
“It looked like it was going to be one of those games where it looked like you were going to need to score 20 to win,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “The offense stuck with the plan, kept trying to get their pitch and get their swing off against some pretty good arms. We were able to pour it on late.”
Seven Iowa players tallied at least one hit in the game and six Hawkeyes posted multi-hit games. Sophomores Chris Whelan and Robert Neustrom led the attack with three hits apiece. Whelan was 3-for-6 with two runs and two RBIs, while Neustrom was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs.
It was Neustrom’s seventh multi-hit game of the season and it extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Iowa also got two-hit contests from Mason McCoy (2-for-5, 3 runs), Jake Adams (2-for-4, RBI), Grant Judkins (2-for-4, 3 RBIs), and Ben Norman (2-for-3, 3 runs).
Trailing 6-5 heading to the sixth, Iowa put up three spots in the sixth and seventh innings and added a single run in the eighth.
Neustrom had a two-run single in the sixth to give Iowa a 7-6 lead and Judkins had a two-out RBI base hit to push the lead to 8-6. The Hawkeyes added three two-out runs in the seventh; Whelan, Neustrom, and Adams all had RBIs.
After Northern Illinois got a two-run home run from Tommy Szczasny in the top of the eighth, Norman jumpstarted the Iowa rally with a one-out double to left center in the bottom half. He scored on an RBI single from Whelan, his second RBI of the game.
Sophomore Shane Ritter (1-1) earned the win, allowing two runs on one hit over 2 1/3 innings. He had four strikeouts, but issued two walks. Senior Josh Martsching got the final five outs for his first save of the season.
“The pitching today was OK,” said Heller. “Shane and Josh were a lot better today and we got Elijah Wood into the game; he did a nice job for the first time pitching for the Hawkeyes. Grant (Judkins) wasn’t sharp, but we got through it.
“It was a big swing game for us; 7-4 sounds a whole lot better than 6-5. I was happy to get a win at home.”
Northern Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Judkins. The Huskies loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before Jacob Dunham had a two-run single to centerfield.
Iowa responded by sending 10 batters to the plate in a five-run first inning. Judkins had a two-run single, he scored on a wild pitch, and Mitchell Boe had a two-run single to left field to give Iowa a 5-2 lead.
George Faue (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing three runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings. NIU’s Blake Walker held Iowa in check for 3 2/3 innings, allowing a single hit and fanning five.
Iowa (7-4) returns to action Friday, facing Villanova in the opening game of the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida.