Hawkeye baseball wins two games over top-20 opponents

Iowa baseball capped a weekend against top-20 competition with two wins in Minneapolis.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa catcher Austin Martin watches the ball at the Iowa vs Rutgers game at Duane Banks Field on Friday, April 4, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights 6-1.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Austin Martin changed the outlook for Iowa baseball’s weekend of tough tests.

After the senior catcher launched a walk-off home run to topple No. 20 North Carolina, 5-4, on Feb. 29, Iowa carried the momentum over to Sunday to down No. 14 Duke 7-5 and finish the weekend 2-1 against top-20 competition.

“To come into a weekend and you have to play three teams like we played — all of them are going to be in an NCAA Regional,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “We played with all of them. This should give our guys a lot of confidence.”

But the successes almost never happened.

The Hawkeyes trailed the Tar Heels 4-0 in Game 2 of the tournament, getting no-hit by North Carolina starter Joey Lancellotti through 6.2 innings.

The Tar Heels scored three runs in that span and added a fourth insurance run in the top of the ninth.

The bottom of the ninth started with four-straight walks, plating the first run for the Hawkeyes. Then, outfielder Brayden Frazier lined a single to center, scoring two more to cut the deficit to one.

To end the inning, pinch hitter Lorenzo Elion skied a ball to center deep enough to score Zeb Adreon on a sacrifice fly and send the game to extra innings.

That’s when Grant Leonard went to work.

The Hawkeye closer worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out to keep the Tar Heels off the board.

Martin — down to his final strike — called game shortly after, clubbing a towering shot over the left-field wall to cap the 5-4 victory.

“We were on the barrel all game,” Martin said in a release. “We stuck to our process all game and knew it would come around eventually. The baseball we played in the past is not what our team is built on. That’s not what we’re going to do this year. [Coach Heller] challenged us to bring out a different team [Feb. 29]. We executed that challenge well, playing with energy.”

The Hawkeyes faced a similar situation a day later.

Duke opened the game with two runs in the first inning on Sunday, but freshman first baseman Peyton Williams tied it with a two-run dinger in the fourth.

The Blue Devils added two more runs in the fifth and looked to put the lead out of reach one inning later when they loaded the bases with no outs.

Enter Ben Beutel.

The junior reliever worked out of the bases-loaded jam to keep the Hawkeyes within striking distance. Iowa then put up a run in the sixth, three in the seventh, and another in the eighth while holding Duke to one in the same span.

It all stemmed from Beutel’s stellar appearance in a time of distress.

“To me, the key to this game was Ben Beutel coming into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out,” Heller said in a release. “He puts a zero up there. It showed a lot of guts and toughness. That was the ballgame to me right there.”

The win proved to be the perfect way to bounce back from a tough loss against No. 8 North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack jumped out to a 4-0 lead after four innings before Iowa put one on the board in the fifth.

The Hawkeyes found their groove in the seventh, however, tying the game after a four-run seventh inning that was capped by Ben Norman’s RBI-single to center.

North Carolina State answered with a Patrick Bailey solo shot in the bottom of the inning before he crushed a grand slam in the eighth to put the Wolfpack ahead for good.

Iowa attempted to mount another comeback in the final inning by plating a run, but it wasn’t enough.

“We ended up giving it up,” Heller said in a release. “I like the fact that we fought back, even in the ninth inning.”