116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — It took a month, a smidgen under 20 games, but the Iowa baseball team finally finds its record in the black.
The Hawkeyes are definitely playing some golden baseball right now. Black and gold, get it?
Peyton Williams capped a six-run fifth inning with a monstrous grand slam as Iowa won the opener of a three-game series against Minnesota, 7-1, Friday night at Banks Field.
The Hawks are 10-9, the very first time this season they’re above the break-even mark. They have won six of their last seven.
“I don’t think we are focused honestly on our record right now. We are just focused on playing the game that we can play,” starting pitcher Trenton Wallace said. “The more we can focus on what we can control, the more we’re going to go above that .500 mark. That’s all we can do right now is to focus on what we can control.”
Uncharacteristically the Big Ten Conference’s last-place team, Minnesota (4-15) had oodles of basepath activity against Iowa’s ace, but Wallace always was able to make a pitch to escape damage. That’s ANY damage.
Wallace (3-1), who came in with the Big Ten’s best starting pitcher ERA of 2.28, gave up nine hits and a pair of walks in six innings but zero runs. Minnesota stranded 10 runners against him.
“The main goal when we started scouting Minnesota was not to let the hits frustrate you,” said Wallace, a senior from Davenport Assumption. “They did a great job tonight of putting the ball in play. Might not have been the hardest contact, but there were some balls that found holes. The main thing for me on the mound tonight was not letting those hits get to me. Continue to compete and trust my defense.”
Iowa did nothing against Minnesota starter Sam Ireland through four innings, but Dylan Nedved reached on a throwing error leading off the Hawkeyes fifth, and that turned things. Nedved went to third on Zeb Adreon’s single up the middle, the first hit of the game for Iowa, and scored on a groundout.
After a hit batter, Adreon alertly scooted to third on an Ireland pitch in the artificial dirt and scored on a Brendan Sher sacrifice fly to make it a 2-0 game.
A hit batter and walk loaded the bases, and Williams absolutely obliterated a 1-1 hanging slider from Ireland well over the right-field fence. The grand slam traveled 430 feet, with an exit velocity off the freshman first baseman’s bat of 109 miles per hour.
That’s well struck.
“We knew that pitch was heavy with offspeed pitches with runners in scoring position,” Williams said, of his sixth home run this season. “So I was really just looking for a slider I could hit, because I knew he’d go with that slider. I got the hanging slider I was kind of looking for and took a swing at it.”
Iowa got another run in the seventh without the benefit of a hit. The Hawkeyes had just three in this game and were outhit, 11-3.
But when things are going well, you’ll have that. Ben Probst, Trace Hoffman and Grant Leonard followed Wallace, with Minnesota spoiling the shutout with a run in the ninth.
The teams are scheduled to play again Saturday afternoon at 2:05 and Sunday afternoon at 1:05.
“The guys are fighting hard,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. I firmly believe this offense (ranked next to last in Big Ten batting average) will kick in at some point and make things a little bit easier. But however you get (wins), you get them. Tonight was a toughness game, we found a way to get it done. It wasn’t the prettiest, but we found a way.“
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