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By JAMES ALLAN
MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois scored six runs over the first three innings and held off a late Hawkeye rally to defeat the University of Iowa baseball team, 7-5, on Tuesday afternoon at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.
The loss snaps Iowa’s four-game winning streak and drops the team’s record to 27-16 this season.
“The free bases killed us,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “We were fortunate to be in the game with as poorly as we pitched the first three innings. We didn’t swing it all that well either.
“This one is on all of us. It’s our job to get ready to play, and we failed at that. We weren’t ready to play or ready to pitch. It was as bad of an outing as we’ve had in a game this season.”
Trailing 7-3 through six, the Hawkeyes tried clawing their way back. Iowa scored a single run in the seventh on a Jake Adams RBI single and one in the eighth via a Grant Judkins solo home run to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Iowa brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning after Mason McCoy reached on a two-out single and Adams drew a walk, but WIU reliever Nate Westfahl closed out the game by getting sophomore Robert Neustrom to fly out to right field to tally his fourth save.
The Leathernecks (17-23) jumped on Iowa early, scoring two in the first, one in the second, and three in the third. Iowa’s pitching staff issued seven walks over the first three innings.
The Hawkeyes trailed 3-0 through two innings before putting together a four-hit third. Mitchell Boe and Ben Norman had back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before McCoy singled home Iowa’s first run. Junior Tyler Cropley also had an RBI in the inning.
Iowa trailed 6-3 in the sixth when Cropley doubled to lead off the inning. Pinch-runner Corbin Woods moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch. Western Illinois got the run back in the bottom half on an RBI single from Johnathan Fleek.
Sophomore Cole McDonald (2-4) suffered the loss, allowing two runs and issuing two walks, while lasting just 2/3 of an inning. A bright spot on the pitching staff came via the return of sophomore Kyle Shimp, who had three strikeouts in two shutout innings.
“It was great to get Kyle back out there after being down for quite a while with mono,” said Heller. “He did a nice job. It will be good to get Kyle back for the stretch run in the conference.”
WIU starter Pete Minella (3-0) earned the win, tossing two shutout innings. The Leathernecks used eight pitchers in the game and had 12 strikeouts.
The Hawkeyes out-hit the Leathernecks, 11-8, in the game. Norman led the team with three hits (3-for-5, two runs), while McCoy (2-for-5, RBI) and Cropley (2-for-3, RBI) also had multi-hit games.
Iowa returns to action Friday, opening a three-game weekend series at Michigan State. First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. (CT).
“We’re going to wipe it away and go back to work tomorrow,” said Heller “But it wasn’t a good day today.”