IOWA CITY, Iowa — Led by junior Zeb Adreon’s first-inning grand slam, the University of Iowa baseball team claimed the series opener, 7-5, over Michigan State on Friday night at Duane Banks Field.
The victory is Iowa’s 30th of the season, improving to 30-17 overall, 12-7 in Big Ten play. It is Iowa’s sixth straight 30-win season, the most for the program since winning 30 in seven consecutive seasons from 1979-85.
“This team has showed up, played hard every day, and found ways to get it done when adversity struck, which it has a lot this year,” said head coach Rick Heller. “It’s a good benchmark for our program even when we lose guys like last year and some things happen we can’t control that the program is bigger than anything and we keep moving forward.”
Despite taking a 4-0 lead in the first thanks to Iowa’s first grand slam of the season off the bat of Adreon, the Hawkeyes had to score three runs in the final three innings to break a 4-4 tie.
“This is a huge series for us to stay at the top of the Big Ten and reach the goals we want to,” Adreon said. “We stayed with it and kept putting good at-bats together and found a way to win.”
Michigan State scored two runs in the third and fifth before Heller went to the bullpen to lefty Adam Ketelsen with three left-handed batters due up. Senior and starting pitcher Cole McDonald struck out seven in five innings and scattered seven hits, but was forced to exit early due to a high pitch count.
Ketelsen, a junior from Mount Vernon, Iowa, allowed one run on one hit and earned the win after Iowa retook the lead in the sixth inning.
Sophomore Izaya Fullard and junior Austin Martin each singled to shallow center to give Iowa a 6-4 lead heading to the seventh.
Junior Trace Hoffman, who pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, was the bridge to closer Grant Leonard. Hoffman allowed one run on one hit, before handing the ball to Leonard with two outs and a man on.
Leonard allowed a double to Zach Iverson, which scored a Michigan State run and cut Iowa’s lead to 6-5. Fullard, who went 4-for-5 with a run scored, ended the inning with a diving, backhanded play up the middle.
“That was a big time play,” Heller said. “That changed things – 100 percent changed things. You make plays like that, you win games.”
Iowa tacked on a run in the bottom of the eighth on a balk before Leonard locked down the ninth for his 13th save, which ties Kevin Lee’s single-season record set in 2010.
“It’s a cool feat,” Leonard said. “What I’m here for is to get this team to where we want to be and what we’ve been working for since August – go to a Regional and compete for Omaha – and if you get a couple milestones on the way, it’s even better.”
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“Our effort was really good. Our dugout was upbeat and everyone was positive from start to finish. It wasn’t the cleanest game for us. Michigan State played well; I knew they were going to. We caught a couple breaks after we got the lead to get the lead back. It was a good game on Friday night and we are happy to come away with a win.”
- Fullard is the fourth Hawkeye to record four hits in a game this season.
- Senior Chris Whelan (2-for-4, two runs scored) and sophomore Tanner Padgett (2-for-2, one double) also recorded multi-hit games.
Saturday’s game is set for a 2:05 p.m. (CT) first pitch. Fans are encouraged to arrive early due to a busy Iowa City area with the Big Ten Championship track meet and graduation at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
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