116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The path to a comeback hit a roadblock.
Iowa had its chance and had a golden opportunity to completely erase its six-run deficit. After the Hawkeyes failed to convert, another one never materialized.
Purdue thwarted a rally in the sixth and added four runs in the next two innings en route to a 10-6 victory over Iowa Saturday at Duane Banks Field. The Big Ten Conference series is even at a game apiece with the finale set for 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
“I was glad to see us fight back,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said. “We just needed to keep it closer. It was one of those days where we were going to have to score some runs. They were swinging it well.”
Purdue jumped to a 6-0 lead through four innings, tallying two in the second and getting a two-out RBI double from C.J. Valdez in the third. Valdez capped the three-run third with a two-run double in the fourth, which started with a Paul Toetz home run off the scoreboard in left.
“It’s definitely not ideal for the team,” Iowa reliever Dylan Nedved said. “It’s tough to come back from being down that much, but it’s something you always want to happen. Today, it didn’t pull through for us, so it was tough.”
The Hawkeyes (27-16, 11-6) showed signs in the fifth after stranding two in the first and getting just one runner to second base the next three innings.
Brett McCleary started things with an infield single and Kyle Huckstorf followed with a base hit in the No. 9 spot. McCleary scored when Michael Seegers reached on a fielder’s choice, putting the Hawkeyes on the board.
Peyton Williams singled, setting up Keaton Anthony with two on and two out. Anthony provided a big boost with a three-run home run that cleared the scoreboard and pulled the Hawkeyes within two.
“Game was not going our way for a little bit,” Anthony said. “Just wanted to do what I could (and) drive in runs.”
Anthony belted his ninth home run of the season. He faced a full count and picked up on Purdue starter Wyatt Wendell shaking off a signal. Anthony predicted the next pitch and jumped on it.
“I knew he wasn’t going to come with a fastball,” Anthony said. “I figured he was going to go back to another off-speed. It kind of hung up there for me.”
The game teetered on the following inning. Purdue was retired in order in the top of the sixth. The Hawkeyes threatened immediately in the bottom, opening with an Izaya Fullard single and Brendan Sher double. With the tying runs in scoring position and none out, the next three Hawkeyes struck out — the last two looking.
Purdue pulled away with a run in the seventh and three in the eighth.
“The sixth inning really killed us,” Heller said. “We had second and third and nobody out. Three strikeouts in a row. That was huge as far as us wanting to come back. Then, you can’t walk batters late in the game like we did to allow the little insurance they added.”
Whether it was the Purdue pitchers rising to the challenge or the Iowa batters squandering an opportunity, it deflated the Hawkeyes, who received a two-run double from Cade Moss in the eighth.
“We had a bunch of momentum going into the sixth,” Anthony said. “A lot of guys were up, energy was high.
“Three straight strikeouts. We know that’s unacceptable. It’s not us. I felt a major momentum swing there.”
Anthony added, “The game was nowhere out of hand. There was still plenty of game left.”
Iowa has won its last three conference series. The Hawkeyes won Friday and could take the three-game set Sunday, but have to have a short memory. Something that Heller says the team does daily and is necessary as Iowa tries to position itself for postseason possibilities.
“We try to keep a positive attitude every day,” Nedved said. “Things like that. We’ll wipe it away. We’ll be back tomorrow. Just keeping positive in the dugout and picking each other up. That’s what we preach and what we’re going to practice.”