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Late magic for Iowa Hawkeyes in Big Ten baseball tournament win over Indiana
Iowa scores 4 runs in the 7th and 4 more in the 9th for a 9-4 come-from-behind win over Indiana at Big Ten Tournament
CEDAR RAPIDS — Relievers are people, too.
Really important people Thursday afternoon at the Big Ten Conference Baseball Tournament. On both sides.
The Iowa Hawkeyes scored four runs in the seventh inning and four more in the ninth to rally past Indiana, 9-4, in a winner’s bracket game at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb.
Iowa was able to come back late against the opponent’s bullpen, thanks to its bullpen, specifically Will Christophersen. The redshirt junior, Pleasant Valley grad and Michigan State transfer, was nails in a 2 1/3-inning performance that included six strikeouts and the victory.
“I know if we’re scoring runs, I’ve got to get them back into the dugout, so they can continue doing it,” Christophersen said. “I’m going out there just trying to throw strikes.”
Third-seeded Iowa (41-13) is looking very good for a possible at-large berth to the NCAA tournament next week and not too bad for the Big Ten’s automatic bid that goes to the winner of this tourney. The Hawkeyes are one win from clinching a spot in Sunday’s winner-take-all championship game, their next game Saturday morning at 9 against either Indiana (41-17) or Michigan (27-27), teams they’ve already beaten here.
The Hoosiers and Wolverines play Friday afternoon at 2 in a loser’s bracket game. Top-seeded Maryland and Indiana were playing Thursday night to be in the same position as Iowa on the other side of the bracket.
“Just stayed on it, and finally broke through,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said of his team.
Yes, it did.
Iowa had baserunners against Indiana ace pitcher Luke Sinnard but could only scratch out one run against him in six innings. The Hawkeyes loaded the bases in the top of the first, only to have the right-hander get out of the jam unscathed.
Indiana took advantage of the wildness of Iowa starter Brody Brecht, scoring twice in the first and once in the second. Brecht gave up three hits, four walks and two hit batters in 4 2/3 innings.
The Hoosiers added another run in the sixth for a 4-1 lead but Iowa came to life in the seventh after Sinnard was removed. A one-out walk and single were followed by a Sam Hojnar RBI hit, with a walk loading the bases.
Kyle Huckstorf then lined a bases-clearing double to left to suddenly put Iowa on top, 5-4.
“We have a plan going into the game,” Huckstorf said. “We were hitting balls hard, getting guys on base, we just weren’t getting that one hit. We just had to keep leaning on it, keep sticking to our plan, and we knew we’d all come through in the end.
“We know we’re going to get that hit. We just believe, keep believing. That’s what it’s all about.”
A Ben Wilmes run-scoring single and three-run home run to left by Sam Petersen provided nine-inning insurance.
“I was really pleased. The guys executed the plan about as well as possible,” Heller said. “I thought we started to press in either the third or the fourth, one inning there where we kind of went outside the zone and chased a little bit. You could tell there was a bit of frustration. But it quickly went away.”
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