A big weekend for Iowa baseball against Big Blue


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

Iowa players watch Tyler Cropley's walk-off home run during baseball Iowa vs. Michigan at Duane Banks Field on April 29, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines 7-5. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Michigan came to Banks Field riding a 20-game winning streak, and, thanks to Tyler Cropley’s walk-off home run, left with a pair of losses.

The Hawkeyes (26-14) took down Michigan (25-13), 7-5, on Sunday in emphatic fashion.

Cropley’s home run came after the Hawkeyes originally thought they’d won. A pop-up, believed to be fair, went foul, and the catcher had to come back up to bat, facing a 2-strike count.

“Coach [Rick Heller] called me over and said, ‘Get your heart rate down. You’re going to do it again,’ ” Cropley said.

And that’s just what he did, hammering a pitch out of Banks Field, capping off a Black and Gold comeback. The Hawkeyes trailed by as many as 4 runs in the game’s first two innings, but scored 3 of their own in the final three, 2 in the ninth.

“Getting down 5 early, we knew with the wind blowing out, anything was going to happen,” Cropley said. “Things finally came around to us.”

Cropley led the Hawkeye bats, going 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs. Leadoff man Chris Whelan and Matt Hoeg each posted 2-hit games.

Neither of the two starting pitchers were able to shut down the offenses. Michigan’s Karl Kauffmann lasted 5 innings but gave up 4 runs on 6 hits; Iowa’s Cole McDonald only made it through 3.2 innings before hitting the dugout, finishing his day giving up 5 runs on 6 hits.

RELATED: Michigan bounces back, takes down Iowa in game No. 2

Zach Daniels, however, came in dealing, silencing Wolverine batters in his 4 innings; he allowed just 2 hits and struck out 6, giving the Hawkeyes quick innings defensively and shutting down any momentum Michigan could muster while Iowa slowly came back.

“[Heller] asked me how many [innings] I could go and how my arm felt,” Daniels said. “Last year, I was big in the three- to five-inning range, so it didn’t bother me too much. I wanted to come in and keep the game close, honestly.”

Sunday’s thriller proved to be a massive lift from Iowa’s loss on April 28.

“[That] was as bad as we’ve played all season long without question” Heller said after Iowa’s 10-2 loss.

Iowa handed out free bases and committed errors as rapidly as it did tickets to a sold-out Banks crowd; there was hardly any way Iowa could halt Michigan’s offense.

“It makes it really hard to find a rhythm,” outfielder Robert Neustrom said. “Nineteen free bases I think we had, and it’s the most we’ve had all year. That’s just not good. Defensively, it wasn’t a good game, and offensively, we couldn’t get anything going.”

But Iowa’s first win of the series was almost as monumental as its walk-off winner on Sunday. On April 27, the Hawkeyes handed the Wolverines their first loss in 20 games.

Pitcher Nick Allgeyer kept Wolverine bats in check. In his seven innings, he scattered 5 hits and allowed just 1 run. He also struck out 8 batters.

“There’s a little extra motivation there with a 20-game winning streak, but I try not to get too hyped up into that,” Allgeyer said. “I don’t look too much into the team. Every Friday, I got to go out there and give the team a chance to win.”

First baseman Matt Hoeg led Iowa’s offensive charge. The Waukee native connected on 2 hits on his 3 at-bats, bringing in a run and scoring 2 runs of his own.

“There were a lot of fans, ninth inning, they were on their feet, it was crazy,” Hoeg said. “Michigan coming in had a big winning streak, and it was going to be a huge game for us in the race for the Big Ten, so it was something you live for as a baseball player.”

The Hawkeyes will turn their focus to nonconference foe Missouri, which will travel to Banks Field on Tuesday for a 3:05 p.m. showdown. The next day, Iowa will host Western Illinois at 6:05 p.m.

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