116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – When they fell behind by giving up three runs in the top of the eighth inning, two of them because of an infield miscommunication, you thought the Iowa Hawkeyes were on the verge of a crushing defeat.
Nah, not these guys. There’s just something different about them.
“We got knocked down,” said Iowa’s Dylan Nedved, after his team re-rallied for a 5-4 win Friday night over Illinois at Banks Field. “But we got back up.”
Which they seem to do a lot. It has been a pattern for this baseball team.
Things don’t go well, yet it never quits. No, it doesn’t pull off games like this all the time, but it never goes away, always seems to make the opponent sweat.
“I just think it has to be your culture,” said Coach Rick Heller. “That you just play, you play hard, you don’t look at the scoreboard. You just keep playing. You’ve heard me say that before. But when you truly buy into that, that gives you a chance to come back in those games when it looks like you’re out of it. Somebody puts a dagger in you like that in the eighth inning, it looks like you’re done, you’re deflated. But if you just keep playing, it’s tough to get those last three outs. They’re never easy.”
Iowa moved to 22-14 by countering Illinois’ three eighth-inning runs with three of its own. Zeb Adreon led off with a walk and scored on Matthew Sosa’s double down the third-base line and into the left-field corner.
Sosa went to third on a pickoff attempt that hit him and rolled far enough away. He then scored when Brayden Frazier hit a short fly into center field that fell for a double because Illinois was playing the infield in, its shortstop unable to get back for it and its center fielder unable to come up for it.
With two outs and Frazier on third, Ben Norman, Iowa’s best position player all season, worked a 2-0 count against Illinois relief pitcher Cole Kirschsieper, a fellow lefty, and smoked a fastball to deep right and off the tip of the glove of the Illini’s right fielder for a game-winning triple.
“I was just looking for a fastball,” Norman said. “I got the pitch and got a good swing off of it.”
Hawkeye reliever Dylan Nedved worked a 1-2-3 ninth, and that was that. Nedved allowed a game-tying double with two outs in the top of the eighth, then a grounder up the middle that Iowa’s middle infielders (shortstop Brendan Sher and second baseman Michael Seegers) played a game of I want it, you take it, the ball getting past them for a single that gave Illinois a 4-2 lead.
A very temporary 4-2 lead, as it turned out.
“I was disappointed we were a little sloppy tonight,” Heller said. “But we were lucky enough to survive it.”
“A few things we need to clean up, but I just think this is a great sign,” Norman said. “It showed that when there’s an error like that, we can come back. Obviously you don’t want the error to happen, but we had what it took to come back and were tough enough to get it done.”
Iowa took another step toward securing an NCAA regional berth with the win. Nebraska leads the Big Ten Conference with a 24-11 record, followed by Indiana (23-11), Michigan (24-12) and Iowa and Maryland.
These teams play again Saturday afternoon at 2:05 and Sunday afternoon at 1:05.
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