Hawkeyes whip Russia at World University Games

Team USA 2-0 at baseball tournament in Taiwan

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NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan — After spending its first four days at the 2017 Universiade on the baseball field, the Iowa baseball team took advantage of Monday’s off day to learn a bit about Taiwanese culture.

For Kole Kampen, that meant trying some of the local delicacies at Taipei’s Snake Alley.

“In a new country you might as well try some new things, so I had some cobra soup,” Kampen, a redshirt freshman pitcher, said. “It was a little different, but I liked it. The soup was very good.”

Would he eat it again?

“Probably, yeah,” he said.

The day also included a stop at Taipei 101, a 1,671-foot skyscraper that was the tallest building in the world until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa opened in 2010. The day ended at Shilin Night Market, where the players passed on sampling famous Taiwanese snacks — such as stinky tofu, pig’s blood cake and chicken feet — for fear of upsetting their stomachs the day before a game.

Team USA was back on the field on Tuesday evening, moving to 2-0 in Group B with a 13-3 mercy-shortened win over Team Russia in seven innings.

Designated hitter and leadoff man Chris Whelan got things going offensively for the Hawkeyes with a double in the top of the second and finished the evening 3-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBIs. He set the tone for a Hawkeyes team that had been struggling at the plate to kick off the Universiade.

“We talked about it, me and our hitting coach, that guys, especially for Russia and Mexico a little bit, they were going to throw slower than what we were used to,” Whelan said. “So it was either make the adjustment of stepping up in the box or just starting your load later. I chose the latter. I trusted myself that I could be in the same spot in the box and just start a little bit later and trust that my quick hands would be able to get the job done.”

Right fielder Robert Neustrom added a 3-for-5 performance that included two triples and two RBIs. Starting pitcher and Cedar Rapids native Sammy Lizarraga got the win, going 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven. Coach Rick Heller was happy his squad didn’t play down to what was an inferior Russian squad, at least on paper.

“Well, we didn’t take them for granted because the thing we noticed when we watched them play against Japan, even though they fell behind, they didn’t quit,” Heller said. “They played hard the entire game.”

The win guarantees the Hawkeyes a spot in the Super Round. They are tied atop the Group B standings at 2-0. They’ll wrap up the group play with a first-place battle against Japan (2-0) on Wednesday morning (9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Iowa time).

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