116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – Not a good way to end the 2021 home schedule at Banks Field. Not a good weekend overall.
Not how you get into an NCAA regional.
There were way too many ‘nots’ for the University of Iowa baseball team, which dropped a 6-2 decision Sunday afternoon. It’s a series loss for the Hawkeyes at an inopportune time.
Thank goodness for that come-from-behind late win Friday night, because Saturday and Sunday were out and out not good. Illinois crushed the Hawkeyes, 14-1, Saturday afternoon, then there was this one.
The Illini outhit Iowa, 16-5, putting up a four spot in the fifth inning that provided the difference. Senior Day was a flop.
“Sometimes you tip your cap to the opposing pitcher, and they both did a really good job the past two days,” said Iowa pitcher-left fielder Trenton Wallace. “Looking forward, we’ve got to take care of business and keep competing. That’s all we can do from here on out.”
Iowa (22-16) suddenly finds itself in fifth place in the Big Ten Conference, two full games behind fourth-place Maryland. The Terrapins finished a weekend sweep of Purdue on Sunday.
It’s Nebraska (25-11), Indiana (24-12) and Michigan (25-13) manning the top three spots in the league. The Hawkeyes have six games left in the regular season: a pair of three-game series at Northwestern and Michigan State, in that order.
Well, maybe. Northwestern had its series finale Sunday at Nebraska canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the Wildcats team.
Iowa Coach Rick Heller said he had heard Northwestern had only 18 players who travel to Lincoln this weekend and simply ran out of pitching. If somehow the Iowa-Northwestern series can’t be played, that could do irreparable damage to the Hawkeyes’ chances of getting into the NCAA tournament.
“I think you always worry a little bit,” Heller said, when asked if he felt his team is pressing. “That’s what our staff has been focused on the last two days. Not focusing on anything different than what we normally talk about. But, internally, they know what’s going on. They read stuff. No matter how old you are, the mental game is a challenge, to not let yourself start to press. I think that’s human nature.”
Iowa got back-to-back short starts in this series, with Duncan Davitt not making it out of the third inning Saturday and Cam Baumann lasting just 4 1/3 innings Sunday. Hawkeye bats have been really good over the past month and a half or so, but managed just three hits Saturday and five Sunday.
That’s especially frustrating considering Illinois’ team earned run average of 6.92 is second-to-last in the Big Ten. The Illini have an 18-19 record.
“The game is kind of cruel at times, and it can come back and get you,” Wallace said.
“They outpitched us, they outhit us. For whatever reason, our bats suddenly went cold,” Heller said. “It’s kind of strange because in baseball, certain pitchers give you trouble, other guys don’t … We were not sharp offensively. You hate to see that happen, especially at this time because we’ve been going pretty good. Hopefully we can wipe it away and clean it up this week.”
Heller said he felt his team had a good week of practice this past week, despite final exams. He doesn’t want his hitters to do too much extra work this week in practice because that’s not usually a good thing.
“In baseball, hitting, the worst thing you can do is try harder,” Heller said. “You just need to see the ball and hit the ball at this point. We’ll get back to some good stuff this week, and hopefully we can come out of it.”
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