IOWA CITY — With a depleted and thin pitching staff, Iowa Coach Rick Heller turned to freshman Jack Dreyer for a crucial start.
Dreyer embraced the opportunity and delivered a quality start that helped the Hawkeyes claim a very important game and three-game set to bolster their resume for the postseason.
In just his second start, Dreyer held 12th-ranked Oklahoma State to one run through five innings and helped Iowa capture an 11-3 victory and the series Sunday at Duane Banks Field.
“Coach Heller always talks about no matter who is up it’s just next guy forward, so we really don’t think too much about who it’s going to be because we have confidence in every guy that throws,” said Dreyer, a former Johnston all-stater. “I’m just lucky I have a great senior leader, Tyler Cropley, behind the plate, helping me out and great defense making good plays.”
Dreyer (3-2) allowed just two hits and struck out six. He gave up a solo home run to Carson McCusker in the third, but that was the only damage the Cowboys could cause. Dreyer stranded two in the fourth, which was the only other time he allowed a runner to reach second base.
“What a great game for us and for our program,” Heller said. “To be in the situation we were in and to have Jack Dreyer step up like he did, that was big time. Big-time performance by Jack.”
Iowa (27-15) took its second straight weekend series against a ranked foe, beating then-No. 7 Michigan twice last week.
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“It was just awesome,” Heller said. “A solid game defensively and I guess the big thing for me is that our guys came out three days in a row, played hard, were present every day, great attitude, great energy, great effort and that was the difference, I think.”
Heller informed Dreyer of the decision shortly after Iowa’s 16-14 victory Saturday. Dreyer was unfazed, remaining calm and cool leading up to the game and throughout his outing.
“A lot of confidence,” Dreyer said. “Not making too big a deal out of it. I have guys like Nick Allgeyer and Cole McDonald who just instill confidence in me. Just making sure I’m not making it more than what it is and just go out there and have fun.”
This was more than a one-man show on the mound for Iowa. Dreyer and reliever Grant Judkins combined to pitch 8 2/3 innings, limiting Oklahoma State (27-16-1) to six hits, before Nick Nelsen came in to close out the game.
“(Judkins has) been working hard to try to get his ankle healthy enough to be able to go out and play,” Heller said. “He pitched great.
“I just couldn’t be prouder of those two guys and then Nick Nelsen for the third time this week. He had a great weekend for us.”
The offense provided an early boost, allowing the young left-hander to become comfortable. The Hawkeyes scored four in the first inning, getting a two-run single from Cropley, who finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and scored three times.
Iowa did not lag after the 16-run outburst the previous day and a week it scored 16 in a loss to Missouri and 38 total runs.
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“I’ve done this long enough to know that a lot of times you come out flat,” Heller said. “Our guys came out today (and) scored runs right off the bat to give Jack a lead to work with.”
The Hawkeyes pulled away in a six-run seventh. Mitchell Boe sparked Iowa, getting a base hit and scurrying around the bases when the ball skipped by the center fielder for a 5-1 lead. After Chris Whelan’s single and Robert Neustrom’s double, Iowa took advantage of the Cowboys' control problems, walking in two runs and scoring on a hit batsman.
“It was big to set the tone offensively with that one,” Whelan said. “We kind of had a lull in between those second and sixth innings and then came back out with six runs in the seventh, so that was big for us.”
Iowa has been on the postseason bubble most of the year. The latest projections had Iowa as one of the first teams on the outside looking in. Sunday helped Iowa’s cause with two conference series against Northwestern and Penn State left.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Whelan said. “Look forward to moving forward with this one.”
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