Iowa baseball team drops series-finale to Rutgers, wins three of four on the weekend

The Hawkeyes scored the first six runs of Sunday’s game, but their bullpen couldn’t shut down the Scarlet Knights.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa Pitcher Duncan Davitt throws a pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Nebraska at Duane Banks Field on Sunday, March 21, 2021. Davitt went an inning and two-thirds, giving up five earned runs.The Cornhuskers defeated the Hawkeyes 13-8.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The Rutgers baseball team scored the final seven runs of its Sunday contest against Iowa in Piscataway, New Jersey, and walked the game off in the ninth inning to steal the series finale from the Hawkeyes, 8-7.

Iowa (15-10) had won the first three games in the series and was on a seven-game winning streak before falling to Rutgers (12-12) at Bainton Field.

“It’s disappointing to be that close to a four-game sweep over a good Rutgers team on the road,” coach Rick Heller said in a release. “To their credit, they didn’t quit and fought back. They found a way to steal one from us on Sunday.”  

The Hawkeyes rallied late to win the series-opener Friday, scoring seven runs in the ninth to win 14-12. The team followed that up by dominating Saturday’s doubleheader, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 11-2 in the two games, both Hawkeye victories.

Early Sunday, it appeared Iowa was set for a sweep.

Iowa scored the first six runs of the series finale. Redshirt senior Ben Norman blasted a three-run home run, his ninth deep ball of the year, to put the Hawkeyes on the board in the top of the second. Then, the first three Hawkeyes batting in the top of the third all reached base.

Redshirt senior Matthew Sosa drove in Iowa’s fourth run of the game on a fielder’s choice, before catcher Austin Martin laced a ground-rule double down the left-field line to plate two more Iowa runs.  

The Hawkeye offense chased Rutgers starter Justin Sinibaldi out of the game after two and 1/3 innings, scoring three runs in the second and third inning to take a 6-0 lead through three.

Iowa starting pitcher Duncan Davitt was in control on the mound. The redshirt sophomore tallied a career-high seven strikeouts in five innings of work. Davitt allowed one run on four hits before leaving the game. Redshirt senior Trace Hoffman relieved Davitt, tossing two scoreless innings of relief, while adding two strikeouts.

But after that, the bullpen wasn’t as reliable.

Redshirt junior Dylan Nedved took the mound in the eighth inning but never recorded an out. After Nedved allowed the first four Rutgers batters in the inning to reach base and one run to score, the fifth Scarlet Knight batter of the eighth — Evan Sleight — hit a grand slam.

Sleight’s deep shot cut Iowa’s lead to 7-6. Norman had added a run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the inning.

Closer Grant Leonard got the Hawkeyes out of the eight without giving up any more runs. Leonard didn’t replicate that success in the ninth. The redshirt senior loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth after two Rutgers singles and a hit by pitch. A second hit batter in the inning tied the game.

A fielding error by Sosa at third base then drove in the winning Rutgers run.

“Unfortunately, our bullpen, for the first time this year, really collapsed,” Heller said in a release. “Nedved didn’t have it today. Leonard same story. Once they started to get the rally going, they started to nickel and dime us. They had some bloop hits and balls that weren’t hit well that found holes. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you give up free bases late in the game.” 

The Hawkeyes return home to Duane Banks Field next weekend, where they will host its first pod of the season. Iowa will face Maryland on Friday and Saturday and Northwestern on Sunday and Monday. Iowa is 2-0 against Maryland this season and has yet to face Northwestern.