Iowa baseball takes yet another nail-biter

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The Daily Iowan; Photos by Alex

Iowa first baseman Jake Adams celebrates with teammates after a home run during the game between South Dakota State/Iowa at Duane Banks Field on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The Hawkeyes scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to top the Jackrabbits 4-3. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

By Pete Ruden
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It was another close midweek game for Iowa baseball. Just as in last week’s Tuesday game against Grand View, Iowa (18-9) was able to pick up the win over South Dakota State (13-11), though not by much.

The 4-3 victory kept Iowa undefeated in midweek games and helped the Hawkeyes continue their winning streak, which now stands at seven.

Before right fielder Robert Neustrom brought Mason McCoy in with a two-out double in the seventh to break a tie, it was a back-and-forth game.After walks and a wild pitch led to the first Jackrabbit run of the game, Jake Adams crushed his 11th home run of the year, tied for best in the Big Ten.

South Dakota State then used an RBI ground out and a homer of its own to score 2 more.

However, Adams came back with another RBI to tie the game before Neustrom’s double put the game on ice.

Just as he has plenty of times before, Neustrom came up clutch for Iowa. While he thinks his teammates would have been able to do the same thing, he knows what he is capable of.

“If anybody was up, I’d have confidence that they’d get it done, too,” Neustrom said. “I was fully confident in myself that I could get the job done. Just tried staying the other way, and that’s what happened.”

Before Neustrom brought McCoy in, Iowa was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Hawkeyes weren’t the only ones having trouble bringing runners in.

South Dakota State went a dreadful 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and just 1-for-11 with runners on base.

The Jackrabbits’ struggles at the plate were in part due to the Iowa bullpen. After giving up the home run in fifth, the Hawkeye relievers gave up just 1 more hit for the rest of the game.

Since the beginning of the season, Iowa has used a bullpen by committee, and it has worked. With no clear roles, the unit has come together and gained experience in different places.

In the end, Kyle Shimp earned the win, and Josh Martsching got the save.

The poise of the relievers is something that Shimp builds on.

“Our bullpen has the most confidence since I’ve been here,” he said. “Going into the season, there were no defined roles. Nobody knew where anybody else was going to fit in. We’ve been kind of tested out in different spots and different opportunities. We’ve all kind of just jelled together and picked each other up when we need it.”

The win kept Iowa undefeated in midweek games on the season. The games against Grand View and South Dakota State were only decided by 1 run, so the games have paid off, keeping the Hawkeyes sharp as they head into more Big Ten action.

Head coach Rick Heller thought the focus of his club was better than it was when they swept UNLV. At the end of the day, the fourth-year Hawkeye coach was pleased with the performance.

“I was really happy with how we played,” Heller said. “I thought we played Hawkeye baseball tonight. Didn’t give up, kept plugging away, and good things happen when you do that.”

Next on Iowa’s docket is Northwestern. The Hawkeyes will play a three-game series in Evanston before returning to Banks Field to take on Western Illinois in another midweek game.

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