By ALEX SNYDER
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Sophomore Ben Norman’s walk-off, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning propelled the University of Iowa baseball team to 4-3 victory over Toledo in the regular-season opener Friday night at the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic at Osceola Park Stadium.
The Hawkeyes trailed 3-1 heading into the eighth inning when junior Robert Neustrom hit a solo home run to bring Iowa to within a run. After sophomore reliever Grant Leonard entered and got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the ninth, the Hawkeyes completed their comeback.
Sophomore pinch-hitter Grant Judkins drew a walk before Matt Hoeg singled to put two runners on. Sophomore Lorenzo Elion followed with a single — his third hit of the game — to left field, but pinch runner Trenton Wallace was thrown out at the plate.
After junior Mitchell Boe singled to load the bases, Norman delivered the walk-off base hit to knock in a pair for the game-winner.
All three Toledo runs were unearned. The Rockets scored two in the third and one in the fifth against Iowa starter Nick Allgeyer. The Hawkeyes got on the board in the fourth on a Tyler Cropley RBI single.
Allgeyer went five innings in his second career start, scattering four hits. He had seven strikeouts to three walks in the game. Leonard earned the victory — the first of his career — getting the two big outs in the ninth in his third career appearance.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was exciting to get the win. Nick Allgeyer gave us a strong start, pitching five innings. We made a couple mistakes in the field that costed us. We were a little sloppy on the mound, but the guys battled and we just kept playing, which was good to see. The second half of the game was much better on offense. I liked how we kept fighting.”
– Iowa out-hit Toledo, 10-7, with three players posting multi-hit games. Lorenzo Elion finished 3-for-4 in his first game as a Hawkeye, while Matt Hoeg (2-for-3), and Robert Neustrom (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI) also had two-hit games.
– The Hawkeye pitching staff combined for 12 strikeouts in the victory. Allgeyer had a career-high seven strikeouts.
– Neustrom’s home run was the 11th of his Iowa career.
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday, facing Oakland in the second game of the Sunshine State Series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. (CT).