Baseball Hawks rise above struggles

Maryland+infielder+AJ+Lee+chases+after+Iowa+player+for+the+tag+out+at+Duane+Banks+Field+on+Saturday%2C+March+26%2C+2016.+The+Hawkeyes+erased+a+1-0+deficit+in+the+bottom+of+the+8th+scoring+4+runs+to+beat+the+Terrapins+4-1.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2F+Alex+Kroeze%29
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Baseball Hawks rise above struggles

Maryland infielder AJ Lee chases after Iowa player for the tag out at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Hawkeyes erased a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 8th scoring 4 runs to beat the Terrapins 4-1. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Maryland infielder AJ Lee chases after Iowa player for the tag out at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Hawkeyes erased a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 8th scoring 4 runs to beat the Terrapins 4-1. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Maryland infielder AJ Lee chases after Iowa player for the tag out at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Hawkeyes erased a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 8th scoring 4 runs to beat the Terrapins 4-1. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Maryland infielder AJ Lee chases after Iowa player for the tag out at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Hawkeyes erased a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 8th scoring 4 runs to beat the Terrapins 4-1. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)


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By Blake Dowson | [email protected]

The struggles of the Iowa baseball team have been well-documented this season.

But after a weekend of good baseball and a couple wins against a potent Maryland team, the Hawkeyes looked like they may be back to their old form.

The same form a year ago earned them a 41-win season, a second-place finish in the Big Ten, and a berth in a NCAA regional.

The March 25-Sunday series against Maryland showcased the Hawkeyes in many ways, both at the plate and on the mound.

“I feel a lot better about our offense than I did a few weeks ago,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “We still have some guys that need to get going, but when you’re getting hits throughout the lineup, it gives you a good chance to score some runs. We weren’t getting that a while ago, so I feel like watching our guys going to the plate, their confidence is getting better, and our at-bats are much more quality than they were.”

The Hawkeyes got timely hitting from different parts of the order this past weekend, a hallmark of the squad a year ago.

Seven Iowa hitters registered RBIs, and 10 of the 13 runs brought in were from guys hitting fifth or lower. Freshman Robert Neustrom, hitting ninth, was 6-for-9 with 2 RBIs.

“Robert is getting hot, and that’s a good thing for us,” Heller said. “We need some guys up and down the order to spread things out for us … he gave us a nice boost and really helped out big-time for us.”

Facing a 1-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth on March 26, the Hawkeyes chased Maryland starter Taylor Bloom before picking apart the Terrapins.

A sacrifice bunt by freshman Zach Daniels followed by a throwing error plated the tying run, then senior Tyler Peyton busted it open with a 2-run single. Senior Jimmy Frankos laid down a perfectly executed safety squeeze to plate an insurance run.

Another reason to feel the Hawkeyes have the wheels turning is the performance of Peyton and Company on the mound.

Peyton has been dealing with a forearm problem most of the season, but he returned to form for the first time on March 26.

He touched 91 mph on his fastball. His change up, which has been labeled the best in the Big Ten, lived up to the hype. And his slider backed into the zone, consistently fooling the Terps.

As impressive as he was, sophomore C.J. Eldred, who threw a complete game on March 25 in beating Maryland first-team All-American starter Mike Shawaryn, may have outdone Peyton’s performance.

Another reassuring sign was the performance of junior Ryan Erickson in relief on Sunday. After senior starter Calvin Mathews was bounced in the third inning, Erickson came in to throw 4.1 scoreless innings.

To this point in the 2016 season, Erickson had not performed to the level he had in 2015, when he posted a 4-1 record and a 2.79 ERA as a key piece in the bullpen.

For the Hawkeyes, the start of the Big Ten schedule is the start of a new season. A series win versus Maryland means they are on the right track.

“The way we look at it, you split the season into three categories,” senior Joel Booker said. “You got your preseason, your midweeks, then your Big Tens. So as long as we take care of business in Big Tens and midweeks, I think we’ll be fine.”

And they are not satisfied, either. Some may be after taking two-straight versus a Maryland team that just won a series against Cal State-Fullerton, but Peyton made it clear after the game on March 26 they are not.

“[Clinching the series] feels good and all,” he said. “But we’re going for something more than that.”