OMAHA, Neb. — Iowa’s offense put runners on base time and again in Friday’s Big Ten baseball tournament elimination game against Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes were unable to capitalize on any of their scoring opportunities.
Minnesota made the most of its opportunities, ending Iowa’s season with a 3-0 win at TD Ameritrade Park.
Iowa’s season ends at 31-24. Minnesota moves to 28-26 and will play Ohio State in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday. Minnesota would need to defeat Ohio State twice to reach the Big Ten championship game Sunday.
“It was a tough loss, but a great game,” said Iowa coach Rick Heller. “I’m really proud of our guys. They didn’t quit. They fought to the end just like we did all season. We had some opportunities, had some base runners, we just couldn’t get a clutch hit tonight to save our life.”
Iowa left 11 runners on base. The Hawkeyes did not have a runner at third until the ninth.
While Iowa missed out on all of its opportunities in the first eight innings, it still had one more prime opportunity in the ninth.
Ben Norman singled to start, chasing reliever Ryan Duffy. Tanner Wetrich was hit by a pitch by reliever Brett Schulze.
Brendan Sher hit one up the middle that ricocheted off Schulze behind the mound. A charging Jordan Kozicky scooped it and made the throw in time to just beat out Sher. After video review, the call was upheld. Chris Whelan was called out on strikes to end the game.
“The play Kozicky made on Sher’s ball was amazing,” Heller said.
Iowa was 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
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“We couldn’t get them consistently enough to where we could get our runners in,” said Norman. “We didn’t really execute with runners in scoring position when we needed to. That’s what it boils down to.”
Minnesota capitalized on one opportunity early, then added some timely insurance late.
The Gophers struck first when Eli Wilson singled to score Ben Mezzenga in the third.
Minnesota added two more in the ninth on three hits.
“It would’ve been a little different ballgame if we could’ve kept it where it was at going into the top of the ninth,” Heller said.
Both pitching staffs found themselves in trouble throughout.
And both Iowa and Minnesota’s hurlers kept working themselves out of jams unscathed.
Minnesota had a runner at third in the first, third, fifth and sixth and only scored once, while placing runners at second in the second and fourth.
Iowa had a runner at second in the first, second, fourth and fifth, and had a runner on first in the sixth, seventh, as well as the opportunity in the ninth but never was able to bring a run across off Minnesota starter Joshua Culliver, and relievers Duffy and Schulze.
Iowa starter Cam Baumann was wild at times, but worked out of most jams. Reliever Duncan Davitt kept the Hawkeyes in the game into the ninth.
Duffy earned the win for Minnesota, while Baumann took the loss for Iowa.