The Iowa baseball team explored the unknown in its 2017 season. It achieved a first-ever Big Ten Tournament title and a run in the NCAA regional.
By Jess Westendorf
The Iowa baseball team turned hopes into reality this past season as it won its first ever Big Ten Tournament Championship and received an automatic bid to an NCAA regional.
The Hawkeyes finished the 2017 season with a record of 39-22, the fifth-most single-season wins in the program’s history.
Iowa finished with a Big Ten record of 15-9, earning it the fifth seed going into the Big Ten Tournament. Getting back to the tournament meant the Hawkeyes had a chance for redemption.
After making it to the Big Ten Tournament and losing the championship game against Ohio State in 2016, Iowa had the crown in sight.
The Hawkeyes started by defeating Maryland in a close game, 9-8. They continued winning against No. 21 Nebraska but then fell to Minnesota to force an elimination rematch.
Iowa went 13 innings to defeat Minnesota, 7-5, in the second game.
Junior Tyler Cropley hit the game-winning home run that broke a tie at 5 and pushed the Hawkeyes to victory.
This meant that Iowa made another appearance in the championship game, this time against Northwestern, and the Hawkeyes knew the only way they were leaving was if they had a championship trophy in hand.
What happened next was history.
The fifth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes routed Northwestern, 13-4, to win its first Big Ten Tournament title and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA regional.
“This is an unbelievable moment,” junior Jake Adams said in a release. “We knew at the beginning of the year what our goals were, and that was to win a Big Ten championship.”
After scoring 34 runs, notching 18 extra-base hits, and hitting 11 home runs during the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa landed a fourth seed in the four-team Houston NCAA Regional against top seed No. 15 Houston, No. 2 seed Baylor, and No. 3 seed Texas A&M.
It was the Hawkeyes’ second time in three season to make it to the NCAA regional. With the hard loss to Ohio State in the 2016 Big Ten Championship game, Iowa missed out on making it to the NCAA Regionals.
Iowa faced Houston right off the bat to begin play at the regional in Houston. The Hawkeyes were hot and solid on defense, defeating the Cougars, 6-3.
Unfortunately, this was the first and only game the Hawkeyes won in Houston.
After a hard-fought battle, Texas A&M came out victorious, winning, 3-2, in the Hawkeyes’ second game. The loss sent Iowa straight to the loser’s bracket and to an elimination rematch game against Houston.
On June 4, Iowa’s regional run ended as they lost to Houston late, 7-5.
Adams hit a home run in the eighth inning that tied the game at 5 and moved him to the No. 1 spot in the NCAA for home runs this season.
Houston countered and scored 2 runs in the top of the ninth, and Iowa couldn’t answer.
This season Iowa learned a lot about what its program can do as well as about the players who wear the Hawkeye jerseys. Many see this is as just the start to what the program can do.
Head coach Rick Heller and his team reached great heights this season, but this is just the beginning for Iowa baseball.
“This was a hard-fought game; I am proud of our guys,” Heller said in a release. “It looked like a game where it looked like we were going to get it done.”