Iowa baseball set for Penn State matchup at Duane Banks Field

The Hawkeyes are coming off their first series loss in over a month, and Penn State has a four-game win streak.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s Trenton Wallace pitches during a baseball game between Iowa and Maryland on Friday, April 23, 2021 at Duane Banks Baseball Stadium. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 6-2. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Last weekend, Iowa baseball lost its first weekend series in over a month, dropping two out of three games to Indiana.

But with a total of 20 runs in the three-game series, head coach Rick Heller called it Iowa’s best hitting series to date in the 2021 campaign.

And after going up against the Hoosiers — the No. 1 team in the Big Ten — the Hawkeyes found out that with the right assets, they could compete with any team in the conference.

“I think we learned we’re as good, if not better, than anybody in this league,” Heller said. “And we just have to go out and pitch a little bit better.”

Iowa holds a 19-13 record going into the final four series of the season — good for fourth in the Big Ten. As of May 6, D1Baseball and Baseball America have the Hawkeyes on the cusp as one of the final teams qualifying for an NCAA regional spot.

After two rocky starts in a row, the Hawkeyes’ Friday night starter, junior Trenton Wallace, pitched a quality start against the Hoosiers.

RELATED: Iowa baseball drops two of three at Indiana

The southpaw accounted for fewer than five innings in each of his previous starts. But in his start against the Hoosiers, Wallace threw for seven innings, giving up three runs with nine strikeouts in the Hawkeyes’ 6-5 victory.

“Let’s just say I felt more relaxed for myself to be in the zone more and challenge hitters to get hits early,” Wallace said about start against the Hoosiers. “And the more I can do that, forcing the hitters to put the ball into play. Yeah, they came up with some big hits at times, and I give credit to Indiana, they’re a good hitting team, and I just knew if I kept challenging though the odds were in our favor.”

Heller said when Wallace pounds the strike zone, he hasn’t had a bad start.

Offensively, junior infielder Izaya Fullard was instrumental for the Hawkeyes in the series against the Hoosiers, going 6-of-13 at the plate.

After battling through an injury earlier in the season, Fullard has improved his batting average from .214 on April 11 to .319.

Through the 100-point change in the North Liberty native’s batting average, his approach at the plate has stayed the same through the entire season.

“I’ve always kind of been in the middle of the order,” Fullard said. “So I haven’t really gotten any fastballs my whole life. So I’ve always been a pretty patient hitter and someone that doesn’t try to do much, kind of just goes with the pitches and I get a pretty good swing on it.”

Fullard said the Hawkeyes will take these final series one-at-a-time, as the 12-18 Penn State Nittany Lions come to Iowa for a three-game series.

Penn State is on a four-game winning streak, including a single-game 27-run performance against Michigan State May 1.

Nittany Lion assistant coach Sean Moore served as Iowa’s hitting coach from 2017-18. Jake Stone, Penn State’s director of operations, used to be Iowa’s head student baseball manager and worked with Moore when they were both at Iowa.

Heller said that the Penn State coaching staff’s familiarity with the Hawkeyes will make the Nittany Lions the most prepared of any team Iowa plays.

The Hawkeyes have a two-week homestand ahead of them, as Illinois will come to Duane Banks Field May 14-16 for Iowa’s final home games of the season.

“We’re definitely excited about it,” Wallace said. “We love the chance to play in front of the Hawkeye fans every time we can, and I think that just pumps us up even more that we get to stay at home for back-to-back weekends before we head out on the road for the last two.”

Action between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions will begin at 6:05 p.m. Friday night at Duane Banks Field.

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