116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – Iowa baseball holds its postseason fate in its hands.
With just 12 games remaining, the Hawkeyes have a small margin of error to earn an NCAA regional spot. The situation makes every game in the regular season’s home stretch crucial.
“I told our guys we can’t pay any attention to that,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said. “With the RPI situation, us playing Big Ten only, we just need to focus on where we need to finish in the league. I can’t imagine them not taking three or four.
“We just need to play good baseball, do the best we can and hopefully at the end of those games we’re in a good position to where they have no choice but to take us.”
Iowa remained in fourth place in the conference standings, receiving a 10-strikeout performance from starter Trenton Wallace and scoreless relief from Trace Hoffman and Dylan Nedved in a 4-2 series-opening victory over Penn State Friday at Duane Banks Field.
“Trenton settled in and really gave us a real quality start,” Heller said. “Not a lot of hard contact. The bullpen was outstanding and that’s the story. Trace Hoffman did a nice job. He had to get three innings for us tonight and then Dylan was sharp in the ninth.”
Wallace stifled Penn State batters for his sixth quality start of the season. The redshirt junior overcame some first-inning trouble and improved to 5-1. He mixed speeds and pitches, keeping batters off balance to tie his career high in strikeouts.
“(Iowa pitching coach) Robin (Lund) and I were in the most sync, I feel, all year,” Wallace said. “The ability to double up some off-speed on some guys and doing the research. Our staff does a great job of getting us the approach we have to take with these guys.”
Wallace tallied three in the first and two in each of the next three innings. He has 80 strikeouts in 10 starts, moving into ninth on the program’s single-season list. He’s at his best going after hitters and trusting in his ability.
“You just have to let your stuff work,” Wallace said. “I found out with myself if I’m putting the ball in the zone more often I’m putting pressure on the hitters to basically put the ball in play. Sometimes you just have to let the hitters get themselves out.”
The Hawkeyes (20-13) took the lead in the first on back-to-back blasts over the right-field wall by Izaya Fullard and Zeb Adreon. Iowa added two more in the second on a Ben Norman single that chased home Brayden Frazier and Brenden Sher.
“Offense did just enough early with the two home runs,” Heller said. “We had things set up a few times offensively and just didn’t get the two-out hit. We played good defense and what you’d expect when you’re playing a good team and their staff did a really nice job, especially their bullpen, and held us down.
It was just a good game. I’m happy that we came out on top.”
Iowa and Penn State (12-19) resume the three-game series with a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at 11:05 a.m.