Improved hitting fuels Hawkeye baseball past Illini

Iowa notched its first Big Ten win of the season thanks to a bounce-back hitting performance against Illinois on Friday.

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Improved hitting fuels Hawkeye baseball past Illini

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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After the win against Bradley, Iowa baseball head coach Rick Heller said he’d like to see more consistency out of the Hawkeye bats.

His players delivered on Friday, as Iowa took down No. 25 Illinois, 8-4, in a 13-hit outing – double the Hawkeyes’ output in the win on Tuesday.

Leadoff man Mitchell Boe went 3-for-6 and Austin Martin finished a perfect 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs in the Hawkeyes’ highest-scoring game in 20 days. In total, nine Hawkeyes recorded at least one hit.

“I thought the game plan we had for [Illinois pitcher Andy] Fisher today was solid, as long as we would execute it,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “I thought the guys executed it really well. He’s a tough guy to get to and our guys stuck through the plan and got him out of the game fairly early. It was a good day.”

Fisher entered Friday’s contest with a 3-1 record and a 3.25 ERA. Against the Hawkeyes, he lasted just four innings. The senior struck out four Iowa batters but walked three and gave up 3 runs on 8 hits – a season-worst for the left-handed pitcher.

Things fell apart for Illinois two pitchers later. With Sean Leland on the mound, Illinois gave up 5 runs on 4 hits.

Four of those runs came in the eighth inning, when Iowa broke the gates open after tying the game in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Illinois walked Iowa twice, scoring a pair of runs. In between those, Grant Judkins singled to center field, scoring Ben Norman and Martin.

“Last weekend was rough for us,” Boe, who plated in the eight, said. “…It looked like we played with a little more confidence. We went out there and had fun, and that was something we lacked last weekend.”

As far as pitching went, Cole McDonald cranked out another Friday start. The senior threw six innings, striking out five while giving up 4 runs on 8 hits.

“I thought he gave us a really good start,” Heller said. “He wasn’t as sharp with his command as he was last week, but he battled for us. [Illinois] is a good hitting team, they’re tough to pitch to.”

Once McDonald exited, Trace Hoffman, Drew Irvine, and Grant Leonard finished the game.

Leonard closed things out in the final 1.1 innings. He struck out one batter and walked another, but he only gave up one hit.

Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend, Iowa has Cam Baumann slated for the Saturday pitching gig. On Sunday, Grant Judkins will start. The Hawkeyes clash with the Illini on Saturday at 2 p.m. and March 31 at 1 p.m.