By Adam Hensley
Hawkeyes and Rebels clash this weekend for a three-game series out in the desert, but this isn’t the first time the Iowa and UNLV baseball programs clashed against one another.
“The walk-off win, that’s basically what we remember,” catcher Tyler Cropley said.
Let’s take a trip back in time to March 31, 2017.
On a cloudy Friday afternoon, Iowa pitcher Nick Gallagher blanked the 25 UNLV batters he faced, allowing only 3 hits and never giving up a walk. His arm clicked, as he struck out 6 and kept a powerful and quick-scoring Rebel offense silent.
Iowa took the low scoring, defensive game, 3-0. But the remaining pair of games are engrained in the minds of Hawkeye players.
Trailing, 5-3, in the first of two games on April 1, the Iowa erupted for 3 runs in a walk-off thriller in drizzling rain.
Following the conclusion of Game No. 2, the Hawkeyes finished their double-header by completing the series sweep, and just as in the previous contest, this one didn’t come easily.
Iowa trailed, 6-4, heading into the bottom of the eighth, when the Hawkeyes scored 3 runs and never looked back.
“[Those games] were so close last season, if you remember back to those three games,” head coach Rick Heller said. “Each game could have went either way.”
But neither team has the same talent from last season, so it won’t be all familiar faces for Heller and Company today.
Heller noted that this “super offensive team,” retaining two of its top pitchers, will be a good challenge for the Black and Gold in Las Vegas.
Rebel Alan Strong pitched 7.2 innings in Iowa’s first game against UNLV, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs while recording 7 strikeouts.
Larry Quaney pitched in Game No. 2 for UNLV. Iowa feasted off his pitching in the eighth and ninth innings, scoring 4 runs over that time, including the winning hit.
Regardless, this season’s No. 23 UNLV squad is off to a 12-2 start. At one point, the team sat at 11-1 with an eight-game winning streak — the program’s best start since beginning the 1971 season’s 15-1.
It’ll be Iowa’s best test so far this season. The Hawkeyes are off to a hot start of their own, entering today’s matchup with eight wins in their 10 attempts.
Friday starter Nick Allgeyer will get the nod from Heller on the mound, and he’ll have his hands full battling a Rebel team hitting .315 and averaging 7.4 runs per game.
In his last outing, March 2, a 4-1 Iowa win over UAB, the Hawkeyes’ junior pitched in 6.2 innings. Allgeyer gave up a single run on 4 hits, and he struck out 4. It wasn’t an electric performance by any means, but he got the job done.
“I wasn’t as warmed up as I could have been. That’s probably the one thing I’m going to focus on this weekend — make sure I’m completely ready to go out there [on the] first pitch,” Allgeyer said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, but it was one start where I had to pitch and compete, grind with what I had.”
After Iowa wraps up this weekend, it will travel to Kansas City, Missouri, on March 14 to take on Missouri State. Two days after that, Iowa will host Evansville at Banks Field for a three-game weekend series.