116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Not a good way to impress the NCAA selection committee. Not a good way to begin the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Awful ways, actually.
The Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team was limited to two hits and dropped a 5-2 decision to Penn State in a Thursday morning tourney opener at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb.
Third-seeded Iowa (33-18) falls immediately to the losers’ bracket of this eight-team, double-elimination event, playing No. 7-seed Purdue (29-20) in a 9 a.m. Friday game (BTN). The Hawkeyes went to Omaha with a 56 RPI, squarely on the bubble for an at-large NCAA regional berth.
The tournament winner, of course, receives an automatic berth. The chances of either of those things happening took a direct hit with this result.
“When you’re in the situation we’re in, trying to make an NCAA regional, we’ve been in that situation the last six weeks, really,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “You have to try to win every game, and, if you don’t, they’re going to use it against you. We need to find a way to win some games here. I know these guys will come out and play hard tomorrow.”
Iowa scored 30 runs in a regular-season game last week against Indiana, but it didn’t create much offense in the regular-season finale against the Hoosiers and cratered again here. The Hawkeyes produced but a pair of singles against Penn State starting and winning pitcher Tyler Shingledecker (7-3) and reliever Travis Luensmann, scratching out a run in the bottom of the third inning and an unearned run in the sixth.
Shingledecker went the first 5 2/3 innings, with Luensmann finishing up for the save.
“It wasn’t our day, we didn’t play very well, but Penn State pitched great,” said Heller. “The biggest story was how Shingledecker pitched against us. He was tough: a three-pitch mix and pounded both sides of the zone. He had us fooled most of the day, and Luensmann did a nice job as well.
“We were not great offensively, but you have to tip your hat to those two.”
Penn State (26-27), which won a Big Ten tournament game for the first time since 2008, got two runs in the third against Iowa’s Adam Mazur (7-3), the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, in part due to a potential double-play grounder sticking in the webbing of third baseman Brendan Sher’s glove.
The Nittany Lions then put the game away in the sixth on a no-doubter three-run home run to right by Matt Wood against reliever Duncan Davitt. Mazur, pitching with back spasms, gave up four hits and four walks in five innings, striking out eight.
Mazur, Davitt and Ben Beutel combined for a tournament record 17 strikeouts. Shingledecker and Luensmann countered with 15 Ks.
“Offensively, we have to forget today,” said Iowa’s Izaya Fullard. “We know what kind of offense we are, and we know we are capable of putting up runs. We have to go into every at-bat, be confident, and know we’re better than every pitcher we face.”
“Penn State had a great day, they made pitches and got the big hit by one of the top hitters in the league,” Heller said. “Tip the hat, and we have to be better tomorrow.”
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