116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Leave it to Patty.
Izaya Fullard’s two-out RBI single to center field in the top of the ninth inning provided the winning run as the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team survived Purdue, 5-4, Friday morning in a Big Ten Conference tournament elimination game at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb.
Iowa (34-18) plays at 9 a.m. for a third consecutive day when it takes on Penn State (26-28) in another losers’ bracket game Saturday. Make that takes on Penn State again, as the Nittany Lions upended the Hawkeyes in the tournament opener Thursday.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “I am proud of our team just sticking with it and trying to find a way to get it done today when we were having a hard time hitting some barrels early in that game. Tip my hat to Purdue, they played just as hard. It was a great game.”
Fullard is a senior infielder from Iowa City West and Kirkwood Community College who has the nickname “Patty” or “Meat Patty.” He got behind in the count 0-2 to Purdue reliever Landon Weins in the ninth, but took a fastball up the middle and to the right of shifted Boilermakers shortstop Evan Albrecht and into center to score Michael Seegers from second base.
Will Christophersen retired Purdue in order in the bottom of the ninth to finish it up. Throwing almost exclusively sliders, Christophersen (1-2) struck out five in 2 1/3 sparkling relief innings to get the win.
“ I got behind 0-2 right away, and that last pitch, I saw him shake off and smirk a little bit,” Fullard said. “I don’t know why, but it made me think he was going to blow a fastball by me. I made sure to get on time for a fastball, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Seegers singled to center with one out in the top of the ninth. Peyton Williams then hit a foul pop that Purdue third baseman Troy Viola sprinted down the left-field line for and somehow made a great catch of as he took a tumble over the tarp and fell face first into the wall touching it.
Viola could not upright himself quickly enough to get Seegers, who alertly scrambled back to first base and tagged up to second. Keaton Anthony was intentionally walked, leading to Fullard’s heroics.
“Viola made one of the best plays I have ever seen,” said Heller. “He was stuck in the crack and couldn’t get out, and Michael took advantage and got to second, and that gave us a chance to get a two-out knock.”
“When I got on deck, I knew they were going to walk Keaton,” said Fullard. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t. He’s one of the best hitters in the Big Ten and I had been struggling to that point. I was excited, that’s why you play the game.”
Iowa scored three runs in the fifth for a 3-1 lead and another in the sixth for a 4-2 edge. Purdue (29-21) tied it with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Starter Dylan Nedved went the first six innings for Iowa, which should be in pretty good shape from a pitching standpoint Saturday.
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