By Adam Hensley
It wasn’t a midweek blowout by any means, but Hawkeye baseball got the job done on Tuesday, taking down Northern Illinois, 2-0, in front of the Banks Field crowd.
The Hawkeyes thrived defensively because of their arms — the pitchers in Black and Gold managed a no-hitter through the top of the eighth inning.
Trenton Wallace started things out, going 2 innings and striking out a pair of Huskies. After him, Ben Probst, Jack Dreyer, and Shane Ritter kept the no-hit bid going until Cam Baumann gave up the first hit for the Sled Dogs in the eighth.
“I thought it would have been kind of cool to get an all-staff no-hitter, but good for the kid who got a hit, finally,” outfielder Robert Neustrom said. “… Anything can happen in this game. It was a tight game the whole way, so I was happy our pitchers pulled it out.”
The Hawkeyes’ only runs of the game came in the third inning. A Tyler Cropley sacrifice fly plated Mitchell Boe to get things going, and a Lorenzo Elion single brought in Chris Whelan to put Iowa up, 2-0.
Iowa needed a performance like Tuesday’s from its pitching staff — the offense just wasn’t quite there.
“Really, it was kind of a lifeless game, if you want to come right out and say it,” head coach Rick Heller said. “We did just enough to get a couple runs in the first five innings. We had some decent at-bats, and then they kind of went away.”
Unlike the previous midweek game, in which the Hawkeyes used 17 hits to pile on 16 runs against Coe College on April 10, Iowa managed to tally 8 hits against Northern Illinois, but only managed that pair of runs.
The top four in the Hawkeye batting order — Whelan, Neustrom, Cropley, and Grant Judkins — all notched at least 1 hit on the afternoon (Neustrom led the team with 2), but the rest of the lineup didn’t fare so well.
Elion, who went through a full cycle and 2 home runs during Iowa’s previous midweek contest, finished 1-for-4. Kyle Crowl and Justin Jenkins each finished 0-for-4.
The Huskies entered Tuesday’s game struggling at the plate, hitting only .233. Northern Illinois managed just a single hit on 24 at-bats against Iowa, so that average isn’t improving anytime soon.
Now, the Hawkeyes turn their focus to the ranked Gophers. No. 25 Minnesota will host Iowa beginning Friday for the start of a three-game series, but there are still questions remaining on where or when the games will actually occur — Mother Nature still isn’t done meddling with “spring” baseball.
Regardless, a ranked opponent provides Iowa with yet another opportunity to prove it deserves to hang among teams with poll numbers in front of their names.
“That’s what get us excited to play Big Ten baseball,” pitcher Zach Daniels said. “We want to play the ranked opponents, the teams at the top of the Big Ten. We’ll be ready to go for the weekend.”