By Adam Hensley
OMAHA — Another lackluster hitting day for Hawkeye baseball, another loss — and this time, the defeat sent the team back to Iowa City.
The defending Big Ten Tournament champions became the first team out in this year’s bracket when Iowa dropped a 2-0 contest to Ohio State on May 24. The Hawkeyes’ offensive woes from the May 23 debacle carried over in disappointing fashion: They tallied only 4 hits.
All in all, the Black and Gold registered 5 hits in 19 innings of play.
“These last two games were pretty pitiful offensively,” Hawkeye outfielder Robert Neustrom said.
Ohio State started things off quickly, ringing up a number on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. Tyler Cowles smacked a ball to left center field, and fellow Buckeye Kobie Foppe — who had reached base on a fielder’s choice — crossed the plate, putting Ohio State up, 1-0.
Three more scoreless innings followed for both teams until the top of the fifth, when Foppe singled, plating Matt Carpenter.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Iowa had a pair of runners on base with no outs — Kyle Crowl on second and Justin Jenkins on first thanks to a fielding error on Jenkin’s bunt. Trenton Wallace came up to the plate and battled, but he ultimately struck out. Then, Mitchell Boe grounded into a double play, ending the best chance the Hawkeyes had to put runs on the board.
Iowa leadoff hitter Chris Whelan reached on a single in the following inning, but the next three batters struck out, flied out, and grounded out — it was just that kind of road trip for Iowa.
“It will hurt, just simply because you know that you were right there and had a shot,” head coach Rick Heller said.
After getting a stellar outing from its pitching corps in game No. 1 of the tournament, Iowa’s Cole McDonald struggled from the mound in his start. The junior only made it through 4.1 innings before making his way to the dugout. He gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 7 hits, and he also struck out 4.
“If you consider the number of wins, I think we did decent on that, but other than that, I really consider this a lost season,” McDonald said. “We had a team to put wins on the board at the end of the season when we had to. It just didn’t happen, and it’s really disappointing.”
Now, the big question remains: What will be Iowa’s postseason fate?
Iowa had impressive wins this season, taking series against then-No. 7 Michigan, then-No. 12 Oklahoma State, then-No. 22 Illinois, and Ohio State. But come tournament time, the Wolverines and Buckeyes got the best of the Black and Gold.
Heller said on May 23 after Iowa’s loss to Michigan that he believes his squad had a solid chance of making NCAAs if it could win a couple games in Omaha; the Hawkeyes needed to make a deep run to sustain any hopes of a regional berth after dropping two out of three to Northwestern a few weekends ago.
That didn’t happen.
“More than likely, we’ll just be done, unless a miracle happens,” McDonald said. “It’s just how it goes.”