By Anna Kayser
There’s not much else a baseball team can ask for than 63-degree weather for a February home opener.
That’s exactly what Iowa baseball had as it took the field against Cornell College on Tuesday, coming out of the game with a whopping 15-1 win at Duane Banks Field.
Freshman left-hander Trenton Wallace started out with the ball for the Hawkeyes, going 3 scoreless innings and allowing only 4 hits, with 4 strikeouts and no walks.
Wallace came into this start with a 5.40 ERA.
“I don’t really pay attention to the numbers like that,” Wallace said. “It’s early in the year, it doesn’t really matter to me. Just to get out there and be able to have a quality start for our team and put us in a position to win the game was a great feeling.”
As for the offense, the Hawkeye bats started out hot in the bottom half of the opening inning. After putting two on by a hit-by-pitch and a base hit through an infield gap, designated hitter Tyler Cropley took his pitch into the left-center gap for a 2-run double.
The scoring continued with two outs in the first after a throwing error by the Cornell shortstop and an RBI single by sophomore third baseman Lorenzo Elion to improve the Iowa lead to 4-0.
With the top of the order back up with the bases loaded, center field Justin Jenkins lined a ball into right-center for a 2-run double. Sophomore shortstop Kyle Crowl then roped the Hawkeyes’ fifth base hit into left field, scoring another and setting up two runners in scoring position.
Facing a 7-0 deficit and a walk that loaded the bases, it was time for Cornell to swap pitchers. Sam Kornstad came in to revive the Rams, recording a strikeout of Cropley to end the long bottom of the first.
The Hawkeyes didn’t give up in the second. A four-pitch walk to junior left fielder Tanner Wetrich put a runner on the bases for freshman catcher Brett McCleary, who hit a single up the middle.
Elion flew a sacrifice into center field to put one run on the board in the second inning, but a diving catch and a strikeout ended the inning with little damage.
The third pitcher in as many innings was the charm for Cornell. With the top of the order up to begin its half of the inning, Iowa went down in order to keep the lead at 8-0.
In the top of the fourth inning, junior right-handed pitcher Shane Ritter inherited Wallace’s shutout.
Cornell’s offense had some life following the pitching change. With runners in scoring position, a wild pitch scored one for the Rams, and the Hawkeye lead was cut 8-1.
The Iowa offense answered in its half of the fourth inning. A triple by Wetrich put a runner on, and a sac fly by Elion into center field put the difference back at 8.
Elion finished his night with 1 hit and 3 total RBI’s, putting into perspective how important it is to be all in for helping the team.
“We’ve always got to execute,” Elion said. “[Head coach Rick Heller] preaches like being a team player, and that’s what we’ve been working on. I was happy I was put in that position.”
Ritter left the game with one inning under his belt, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 1 hit-by-pitch. With the 9-1 lead, freshman lefty Jack Dreyer came onto the mound for a three up-three down inning.
Dreyer’s day ended after two innings of work. In facing eight batters, he allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out three. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Derek Lieurance took the ball in the seventh for a perfect half inning going into the seventh inning stretch.
Following two consecutive scoreless innings, the Hawkeye offense livened up again in the latter half of the seventh. McCleary walked to begin the inning and advanced to third on a one-out single by senior first baseman Austin Guzzo, who came in during the fifth inning for senior Matt Hoeg. An RBI single by freshman second baseman Zion Pettigrew – in for junior starter Mitchell Boe – sent one Hawkeye to the plate.
With runners in scoring position and one out for the Hawkeyes, Jenkins sent a ground ball to short. The out was enough to score another run and prompt a pitching change for the Rams.
The bases were loaded with two outs, and Iowa was set up for another big inning. Back-to-back walks put two more runs on the board, and the Rams were onto their second pitcher of the inning. A 2-run single by McCleary – who led off the inning – extended the score to 15-1.
“I know [the hitters] were trying to be patient and to take their walks, and because of that I think we missed some pitches early in the count in the next five innings, the second through the sixth,” Heller said. “Then after that, they gave us a few more freebies and got a few hits and broke it open.”
After one inning, Lieurance allowed no hits and struck out one of the three batters he faced. Left-handed redshirt freshman Kole Kampen got the ball for his own scoreless eighth inning.
Following the eighth, sophomore right-hander Grant Leonard came in and recorded two strikeouts. To close out the game, Iowa put in freshman righty Ben Probst.
Iowa had 10 hits and no errors in its 15-1 win. The pitching staff allowed only 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit-by-pitch, and recorded 12 strikeouts on the night. Cornell ended the night with 4 errors, aiding in the Hawkeye victory.
Iowa continues action March 2-4 as they travel to face Alabama-Birmingham. Heller and Company are back at Banks Field on March 6 against Maryville in another 4:05 p.m. start.