Heller secures 900th win as Hawkeyes down Vikings

Iowa head coach Rick Heller has officially recorded 900 wins as a head coach as Iowa downed Grand View on Tuesday.


Nichole Harris

Iowa head coach Rick Heller watches the game from third base during a baseball game between Iowa and Grand View on March 3, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Vikings 15-2. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Rick Heller knows how to win.

Hawkeye baseball’s head man is one of four coaches with at least 200 wins at Iowa, and he has posted six-straight 30-win seasons — which marks the Hawkeyes’ longest such streak since 1979-85.

He reached another milestone on Tuesday.

Heller picked up the 900th win of his career in Iowa’s home-opener, as the Hawkeyes toppled NAIA Grand View, 15-2.

“It’s always a time to reflect back for me on all the former players that have played for me, had the chance and the privilege to coach, and all the great assistant coaches that put in all the hard work,” Heller said. “It’s really a team milestone for me and for all the guys I’ve had a chance to be around in my career.”

Infielder Brendan Sher made sure that his head coach would secure win No. 900 on Tuesday.

With a 3-2 advantage, Sher added two more insurance runs on a triple to right-center field in the fifth. Down to the final strike of the inning, Sher sailed the ball past the outstretched glove of Viking center fielder Colten Parkins, scoring Izaya Fullard and Austin Martin to give the Hawkeyes a 3-run lead.

“I’ve been getting off-speed a lot, so I kind of figured something slower was coming,” Sher said. “I tried hitting the ball straight to center field, and that’s kind of what happened. I got an off-speed pitch and did what I told myself I was going to do with it.”

Fullard launched a run-scoring triple of his own in the third inning, propelling the Hawkeyes to an early 2-0 lead. Zeb Adreon added an RBI single to make it 3-0.

Iowa nearly didn’t need the insurance runs from Sher, but Grand View mounted a comeback in the fifth inning.

After starter Hunter Lee posted three scoreless innings with two hits and six strikeouts, reliever Cam Baumann put up a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth to keep the Vikings off the board.

Then, trouble struck.

Baumann loaded the bases without snagging an out in the top of the fifth before Grand View’s Caleb McDowell jacked a 2-run double off the right field wall to cut Iowa’s lead to one.

Enter Jack Guzek.

Taking the mound with one out, Guzek found himself with Baumann’s runners on first and second. All it took was a chopper to the pitcher and a strikeout for Guzek to escape the inning without a scrape.

Excluding the hiccup in the fifth, Iowa’s pitching stayed strong from start to finish, culminating in the first win of Lee’s career.

“The focus was to get ahead early and often, try to hit with the secondary pitches,” Lee said. “Coach talks all the time about being the attacker, so I wanted to come out there [and] set the tone.”

Sher proceeded to take care of his business in the bottom of the fifth before Peyton Williams did the same thing one inning later.

With the bases juiced, Williams clubbed a bases-clearing triple to left-center field to push Iowa’s lead to five.

Iowa added six more runs in the seventh and a Trenton Wallace solo shot in the eighth to continue the rout.

Now, Heller has recorded 611 wins at the Division I level — with 210 at Iowa — along with 289 at Division II Upper Iowa.

“Coach Heller deserves it,” Sher said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s at 900 wins. I mean, that is a lot. He works just as hard to get us in the right spot, and in every aspect is there to support us. Seriously, we love being there for it. Hopefully, he gets 1,000 sooner than later.”