By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Hawkeyes are the comeback kids.
The University of Iowa baseball team rallied from an 8-3, sixth-inning deficit to tally its second straight walk-off victory, downing Omaha, 9-8, Tuesday night at Duane Banks Field in the home finale.
The Hawkeyes scored the game’s final six runs to post the team’s 32nd victory of the season. Iowa finishes the 2017 home schedule with a 19-4 record — the most home wins since 1989 (19-2).
“I am proud that we didn’t quit, we fought back to win the game with some clutch hits down the stretch,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “We took advantage of a couple of freebies and Jake Adams had another big night and Chris Whelan had a big night.
“It was an exciting ending again and a fun way to end the regular season at home as we head to Illinois tomorrow. We’ll put the first seven innings behind us and hopefully we’ll play a lot better at Illinois this weekend.”
Trailing 8-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, junior Jake Adams jump-started the Hawkeye rally with a towering solo home run down the left field line. It was Adams’ 20th blast of the season and it cut the deficit to 8-4.
After senior Sam Norman pitched around a hit by pitch and walk in the eighth, Iowa’s offense went back to work. Sophomore Mitchell Boe drew a leadoff walk before Chris Whelan and senior Mason McCoy had back-to-back doubles. McCoy’s two-bagger cut the deficit to 8-6.
McCoy was erased when he was picked off by Marcus Ethen in a controversial call at second base. It became more controversial when Adams ended up belting his second home run of the game — a 449-foot shot down the left field line that trimmed the margin to 8-7.
Adams now has 21 home runs this season — one off the Iowa school record — and five blasts in his last four games. He has hit a home run in four straight games and it his second multi home run game of the season.
“They left a couple over the middle of the plate and I put a good swing on them,” said Adams. “That sparked us a little bit. We end up getting a walk-off once again.”
Sophomore Kyle Shimp sat down the Mavericks in order in the top of the ninth, setting up the game-winning rally. Freshman Kyle Crowl was plunked to start the inning before Corbin Woods reached on a bunt single.
With one out, Whelan followed with an RBI single up the middle to knock in pinch-runner Justin Jenkins to tie the game at eight. McCoy the scorched a laser at Omaha shortstop Jack Kalina, who saw the ball ricochet off his glove into shallow center field to give Iowa its second straight and fourth walk-off win of the season.
“We believe in one another,” said Adams. “Whoever is at the plate, we know they are going to get it done. Mason put the ball in play with two strikes and found a way to get on. We believe in each other; it’s fun to be around these guys in those situations.”
Omaha jumped out to a 2-0 lead in its first at-bat before the Hawkeyes scored single runs in the first and second innings to tie the game. Whelan had a solo home run to lead off the game and Boe had an RBI double in the second.
The Mavericks took control, scoring two runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. Iowa mustered only a fifth-inning run, courtesy of an RBI double from Crowl — his second hit of the season.
“The early innings we were not good tonight,” said Heller. “It was not pretty and we didn’t pitch well the first 5-6 innings. Guys came in and settled it down at the end; we need to be better than that.”
Shimp (5-0) earned his fifth victory, pitching a perfect ninth inning. He struck out two of the three batters he faced. Junior Nick Nelsen and senior Sam Norman also had clean lines for the Hawkeyes in two innings of relief.
Five Hawkeyes posted multi-hit games with Whelan leading the way by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He has three three-hit games in his last four contests. McCoy (2-for-4, 2 RBIs), Adams (2-for-4, 2 RBIs, 2 R, 2 HR), Ben Norman (2-for-3), and Boe (2-for-4, RBI) also had two hit games.
Iowa (32-18) returns to action Thursday, opening a three-game series at Illinois.