Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There were 33 wins and a record fifth straight Big Ten Tournament appearance, but when the University of Iowa baseball team reflects on the 2018 season, it boils down to what could have been.
The Hawkeyes did their heavy lifting during the heart of their 2018 schedule. Iowa’s record sat at 8-6 on March 14 after getting swept at 24th-ranked UNLV and dropping a neutral site matchup against Missouri State.
The team won 64 percent of its games the rest of the way.
That included a series split against No. 11 Indiana, winning two of three games at No. 22 Illinois, and taking a series from Ohio State. After dropping two of three games at eventual Big Ten champion Minnesota, the Hawkeyes took series from No. 7 Michigan and No. 12 Oklahoma State on successive weekends.
“It was a roller coaster at times,” said junior Robert Neustrom, a first-team All-Big Ten outfielder. “We played really well at times. There were times we felt like a top-five team.”
Iowa was sitting pretty from an RPI at-large standpoint on May 6. Then it dropped a road series at Northwestern during the second to last week of the regular season. The Hawkeyes rallied to sweep Penn State in its final home series to earn a No. 6 seed at the Big Ten Tournament, but the team went 0-2 in Omaha, all but squashing the at-large possibility.
“You wanted this group to experience that,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller of the NCAA Regional. “All the new guys in the program and the guys last year that were role players, it would have been awesome for those guys to get into a regional and have that experience going into next season.
“There are still a lot of guys on this year’s team that have felt it and have been there and that will keep the fire burning to get back.”
Iowa’s 33 wins included eight victories against ranked opponents. The team won 143 wins over the past four seasons — the best four-year stretch in school history.
“We had a chance to win almost every game all season long,” said Heller. “When a baseball team has a chance to do that, that’s incredible. I am proud of this team and what we did and what we accomplished, especially after the losses we had last season.
“I think this team over achieved at a high level.”