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IOWA CITY — Corbin Woods hadn’t had a hit since April when the seldom-used Iowa infielder walked up to the batter’s box in the eighth inning against Ohio State on Sunday at Duane Banks Field.
On the fourth pitch of the count, the senior captain from Cedar Rapids blasted a three-run home run to left field, turning a 9-6 deficit into a tie. Robert Neustrom finished the job in the bottom of the ninth, winning the game 11-10 with a walk-off two-run homer.
Before the game, Woods was honored along with the rest of the senior Hawkeyes. His mom got to throw out a pitch and also gave him a baseball card. It was of his late grandfather, Ken Charipar, who was an assistant baseball coach under Duane Banks at Iowa in the 1970s and ’80s.
He put it in his back pocket and played with it in there during the game.
“You gotta think he’s up there looking out for me,” Woods said. “Unbelievable. This is probably the best day of my life.”
It was just his second home run of his three-year Iowa career and coming into the game, the senior had a .163 career batting average in 80 at-bats.
Even so, Iowa Coach Rick Heller said he had a feeling Woods might do something special Sunday. Neustrom said he knew as he watched Woods walk up to the plate something special was going to happen — or he hoped it would, at the very least.
“Everything lined up for him,” Neustrom said. “Last at-bat at Duane Banks ... he came in and did it.”
Neustrom may have won the game and Woods might have completed the crawl back from a 9-2 deficit, but it was Jake Adams who got things started. The junior had a home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that ended five-straight scoreless frames for Iowa (31-18, 13-8 Big Ten).
Adams had three home runs during the series, bringing his total to 19 for the season. The slugger also had a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth, which led to Neustrom’s game-winner.
“He thrives in the big moment, he wants to be up there,” Heller said. “He was unselfish, he didn’t go up there and just swing for the fences.”
Iowa used four different pitchers during the game, as starter Elijah Wood only went two innings against the Buckeyes (20-32, 7-14), giving up six runs. Heller then put in Shane Ritter, who got himself in a little trouble and was pulled for Zach Daniels.
Daniels went 4 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, but just two runs. He had eight strikeouts against two walks in a solid outing.
Heller said Wood is better than what he showed Sunday and as the Hawkeyes head toward the conclusion of the season, the pitching staff as a whole will have to be. The Big Ten Tournament is a certainty at this point and there’s still an outside chance of a regular season title. Iowa is 1 1/2 games back of first-place Nebraska going into the final week of the regular season. The Hawkeyes host Nebraska Omaha on Tuesday before their final Big Ten series at Illinois.
There’s still a lot of baseball left, but on a warm and beautiful Sunday afternoon, there really was only one way to sum up what had just transpired.
“It was just a great day,” Woods said. “Mother’s Day, Senior Day ... it was just a special day.”
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