By AUSTIN BRAMLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Home runs from Robert Neustrom and Matt Hoeg along with six strong innings from junior Nick Gallagher to send the University of Iowa baseball team to an 8-3 series-opening victory over Rutgers on Friday night at Duane Banks Field. It was the teams’ ninth straight home win.
“I was pleased with how we came out and played tonight,” said UI head coach Rick Heller, whose Hawkeyes improved to 23-13 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play. “We played hard and came out with good energy.”
Iowa spotted Rutgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning before taking the lead for good in the second. Freshman Ben Norman reached via a hit by pitch to lead off the inning and junior Austin Guzzo followed with a single to right field. Hoeg stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run double down the left field line to give Iowa a 2-1 lead.
The Hawkeyes tacked on two more runs in the third via Neustrom’s two-run home run to right field — a no-doubt shot — that was the Sioux City, Iowa, native’s fourth of the season.
Iowa connected on its second home run of the day in the sixth, extending the lead to 6-1. Hoeg hit a two-run shot to left field to knock in Guzzo, who reached on a two-out single — his third hit of the game.
“Hits like that helps my confidence,” Hoeg said. “It shows that success will come if you keep working and trust the process.”
Iowa extended its lead to 8-2 with a two-run seventh inning. Senior Mason McCoy tripled into the right center field gap and scored on a Jake Adams’ sacrifice fly. Neustrom then muscled a double to left center and later scored on a throwing error by Rutgers catcher Nick Matera.
“When you get hits up-and-down the lineup, it makes things easier,” Heller said. “It’s nice not having to rely on just one or two guys.”
Rutgers scored single runs in the first, seventh, and ninth innings. The Scarlet Knights scored the first run of the game on a Tom Marcinczyk RBI single to right field.
Gallagher (5-1) earned his fifth win of the year, pitching six strong inning for the Hawkeyes. The Iowa City, Iowa, native gave up two runs on five hits and struck out four.
Sophomore reliever Zach Daniels earned his first save of the season, pitching the final three innings, while allowing one run on four hits and fanning three.
“I was happy with our pitching tonight,” Heller said. “Only having to use two pitchers on a Friday night is huge.”
Rutgers right-hander Gaby Rosa (3-4) suffered the loss, allowing six runs on 10 hits.
Five Hawkeyes accounted for Iowa’s 12 hits, highlighted by three-hit games from McCoy (3-for-4) and Guzzo (3-for-4). Hoeg had a career-high four RBIs.
Game two of the series is set for a 6:02 p.m. (CT) start Saturday night. The game will be televised live on BTN.