Iowa baseball loses three-game series to Illinois

After a win on Friday, the Hawkeyes dropped back-to-back contests to the Fighting Illini on Saturday and Sunday.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa outfielder Trenton Wallace swings while at-bat during the second game of a baseball doubleheader between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Sunday, March 17, 2019.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

After a 14-1 loss to Illinois Saturday, Iowa baseball returned to Duane Banks Field in Iowa City for its series finale against the Fighting Illini Sunday.

The Hawkeyes claimed the first game of the series, 5-4, Friday evening, so Sunday’s match ultimately determined the winner of the tilt.

For the second-straight game, Iowa’s bats were cold against the Fighting Illini. The Hawkeyes registered just five hits and two runs in their 6-2 loss Sunday.

On Saturday, the Hawkeyes only recorded three hits and one run.

“Ideally, doing it as long as I have, you want two or three guys to be hot all the time, instead of having seven or eight or nine on because then when they do go cold it’s usually not real good,” Hawkeye head coach Rick Heller said Sunday.

The Hawkeyes’ offense has stalled at an inopportune time for Heller, as his squad is making its push for the postseason.

Iowa entered this weekend’s series against Illinois ranked 55th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Following their 2-1 series loss to the under-.500 Fighting Illini, the Hawkeyes dropped to No. 75 in the RPI.

The NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament’s field is made up of 64 teams. Before their recent missteps against the Fighting Illini, the Hawkeyes were projected to make the tournament via an at-large bid by Baseball America.

“I think you always worry a little bit,” Heller said. “That’s what our staff has tried to do the last few days, is not focus on anything other than what we normally talk about. Internally, [the players] know what’s going on. They read. No matter how old you are, it’s a challenge with the mental game to not let yourself start to press. I think that’s human nature.”

“I felt a little pressed in the sixth, seventh inning [Sunday] because it wasn’t happening,” Heller said. “That was the main topic for the game. Baseball, and especially with hitting, the worst thing you can do is try harder. We just need to see the ball, hit the ball at this point. We’ll get back to some good stuff this week, and hopefully we’ll come out of it.”

As Iowa prepares for its last two series of the season — both of which will come on the road — against Northwestern and Michigan State, Heller does not plan to change his team’s routine to kick-start the Hawkeyes’ offense.

“We’ll just do our normal routine,” Heller said. “There’s some things we might do individually to try to work on some things after we have a chance to watch all the at-bats and all the tape … [Illinois] just beat us, and we went cold for the first time in about six, seven weeks. The guys that had been carrying us didn’t have a great weekend.”

With the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament Selection Show just over two weeks away, the Hawkeyes will try to put this weekend’s series against Illinois behind them and focus on their remaining six games.

“I think we regroup and continue to practice each day and come back and looking forward to getting better this week,” Hawkeye junior Trenton Wallace said. “I mean, we definitely have some things we can clean up for the next two weeks and just take care of business on the weekends and change really nothing. Just kinda gotta keep competing the way we can.”

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