Hawkeye baseball leaves Hawaii with series draw

Iowa had two wins in a doubleheader on Feb. 23, but fell in its other games.


Iowa’s Tanner Wetrich throws the ball during a game against the Iowa Valley League All Stars on Tuesday July 25, 2017. The Hawkeyes won 7-3. (Elle May/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Iowa baseball posted another solid weekend, racking up two wins to tie a series with Hawaii in Honolulu.

After getting off to a rocky start with a 7-1 loss in which Friday starter Cole McDonald fell to 0-2, the Hawkeyes rattled off two-consecutive wins, in a doubleheader sweep on Feb. 23, 10-8 and 6-4.

“It shows a lot about their toughness,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “It was ugly at times, and we had to overcome a lot of things, but we found a way, guys stepped up when they needed to … It was outstanding.”

Hawaii jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Iowa starter Jack Dreyer in the second game of the series before Iowa retaliated with 3 runs of its own in the third inning. The Rainbow Warriors kept producing at the plate, though, scoring 5 more.

The Hawkeyes then went to reliever Trace Hoffman to stabilize the situation on the mound, and he did just that. He retired the first 10 Hawaii batters he faced and allowed only 1 hit in 3.2 scoreless innings for his first career win.

“You have to come in, and throw strikes, and do everything you can to stop the bleeding and minimize the damage they had,” Hoffman said in a release. “I try to do my best, limit damage, and get out of it as fast as possible.”

Iowa tied it with 4 runs in the fourth inning and 3 more in the seventh, as the Hawkeye offense finally got going. Five players recorded multi-hit games in the win.

In the day’s second game, the Rainbow Warriors jumped out to an early lead once again, bringing in 2 runs in the second inning.

But just as it did earlier, Iowa kept fighting, loading the bases with two outs, and senior Tanner Wetrich took advantage by hitting his first-career grand slam to give the Hawkeyes a 4-2 advantage.

“I have never hit a grand slam in my career,” Wetrich said in a release. “It’s tough to get one out of this park, but I happened to get a barrel on it, and it went.”

Iowa added 2 more in the eighth, but Hawaii continued to threaten. The Rainbow Warriors scored 2 runs on an RBI single and an RBI triple and loaded the bases again with two outs.

Heller turned to Grant Leonard on the mound, who struck out a batter to get out of the inning in the eighth and retired the three batters in the ninth for the first save of his career.

“My mindset is I am the best pitcher in the world, nobody can beat me, I have the best stuff out there,” Leonard said in a release. “I have to have that confidence every time, and when I do that, I feel great. I threw a change up away; it was a little unorthodox, but it got the job done.”

The Hawkeyes then fell in the final game of the series Feb. 24. Iowa held a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the ninth, but a wild pitch from reliever Kyle Shimp advanced a runner to third and another wild pitch on ball four brought in the tying run.

Alex Baeza came through for the Rainbow Warriors in the 10th, ripping an RBI single to tie the series at two wins apiece.

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