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By ALEX SNYDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Senior Ryan Erickson tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings to lead the fifth-seeded University of Iowa baseball team to a 2-0 victory over top-seeded and 21st-ranked Nebraska on Friday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field.
The victory moves the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for a second straight season and moves the team to 36-19 overall.
“It was a really well-played game,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “We knew it would be a hard fought battle. Ryan threw a fantastic game and had command of all his pitches. He stepped up big for us.”
Erickson scattered 10 hits over a career-best 7 2/3 innings and finished with a career-high seven strikeouts. The Mason City, Iowa, native maneuvered through trouble throughout the game, including a first and third, nobody out rally in the third.
“Everything felt good today,” said Erickson, who improved his record to 3-3. “It was one of those days, it was awesome. After the third inning, I felt like I started to get going. I tried to put everything out on the line.”
Sophomore Chris Whelan gave Erickson an early lead when he hit his second home run in as many days in the third to give the Hawkeyes a 1-0 lead. The blast — his seventh of the season — was a no-doubter to left field.
“We were thankful Chris got a hold of one to give us the lead,” said Heller. “Both teams matched up well, we were fortunate to get the breaks and hits.”
Iowa added a key insurance run in the fifth when Whelan singled to jump-start a two-out rally. Senior Mason McCoy followed with a single to put runners on the corners before junior Jake Adams drove home the second run with an RBI single up the middle.
Erickson departed after giving up a pair of two-out singles in the eighth. After reliever Zach Daniels walked the bases loaded, he got Mojo Hagge to fly out to left to end the inning.
The Huskers rallied again in the ninth, loading the bases with a hit-by-pitch and two two-out singles. Senior Josh Martsching entered with two outs to earn his second save in as many days by striking out Luis Alvarado swinging to clinch the victory.
Nebraska finished with 12 hits and it stranded 14 base runners in the game. The shutout was Iowa’s second of the season, and it was just the second time the Huskers have been shutout in 2017. Nebraska had scored 36 runs in its previous two wins.
Four Hawkeyes accounted for Iowa’s seven hits. Two players — McCoy (3-for-4) and Whelan (2-for-3) recorded multi-hit games.
“It was a great game,” said Heller. “Our guys toughed it out, and I am proud of them.”
Iowa will face the winner of the Indiana-Minnesota game in the semifinals at 9 a.m. (CT) Saturday. Both teams will need to defeat the Hawkeyes twice to advance to the championship game.