Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa baseball crashes out of Big Ten tournament as offense disappears

Hawkeyes fall 2-0 to Ohio State, go 0-2 in Omaha

The bat of Iowa's Chris Whelan (28) goes flying into the stands as he loses his grip on it during a game at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on Saturday, May. 19, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The bat of Iowa's Chris Whelan (28) goes flying into the stands as he loses his grip on it during a game at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on Saturday, May. 19, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

OMAHA, Neb. — The team-wide slump wasn’t supposed to last, especially not in a win-or-go-home showdown just 24 hours after maybe the worst hitting day of the year.

Iowa knew what corrections needed to be made. Its players were well aware of the stakes.

Yet the Hawkeyes could not prevent their lineup from getting subdued yet again.

A day after tallying just one hit in a 2-1 defeat over 10 innings, Iowa was bounced from the Big Ten tournament with a 2-0 loss to Ohio State on Thursday morning at TD Ameritrade Park. The 0-2 showing in Omaha will more than likely bring the Hawkeyes’ season to a close.

“We kept fighting and we had a couple chances,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said. “We just didn’t get the hit.”

Thursday’s offensive attack wasn’t as punchless as Wednesday’s performance, when the last 20 Iowa hitters were retired to end that game.

The Hawkeyes (33-20) put at least one runner on base in seven of the nine frames against the Buckeyes Thursday. But they were hitless in 15 at-bats once those runners reached. They stranded two in the seventh and squandered leadoff singles in the fourth and the eighth.

“We just didn’t get anything going,” junior right fielder Robert Neustrom said. “These last two games, we were pretty pitiful offensively. We know we’re better than that. And, you know, it just came at a really bad time.”

Iowa did enter the Big Ten tournament on a five-game winning streak, but it produced a 6-7 mark just before that surge. So the Hawkeyes took the field in Omaha with the assumption that they still needed at least a couple more victories to remain in contention for an NCAA regional bid.

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Heller said those hopes were dashed Thursday. Junior pitcher Cole McDonald said the Hawkeyes needed a miracle.

“It just didn’t happen, and it’s just really disappointing because we all know we could have kept on playing,” McDonald said. “We just didn’t play well at the end of the season.”

That wasn’t the case for the Hawkeyes’ opponents in the Big Ten tournament.

The Wolverines produced a collection of sensational defensive plays Wednesday that Heller said made it feel like “Michigan had 15 fielders out there.”

And Ohio State delivered “probably the best baseball game” of the season Thursday, OSU Coach Greg Beals said.

Iowa, especially on offense, couldn’t match that.

Its three go-to regulars hitting better than .300 on the year (Chris Whelan, Tyler Cropley and Neustrom) combined to go just 2-for-22 at the plate in the Big Ten tournament. The Hawkeyes had more strikeouts (16) than base runners (13) during the two games. Only one Hawkeye reached third base.

“I didn’t think we played poorly,” Heller said. “There’s nothing magically that went wrong. We hit the skids offensively, and unfortunately that’s baseball.”

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