Hawkeyes erase deficit, advance to Big Ten Semifinals

Kyle Huesmann05/25/23
Article written by:On3 imageKyle Huesmann


Photo by Dennis Scheidt

You can never sleep on the Hawkeye bats. Doesn’t matter if they have zero runs in the first, sixth or ninth inning. They have the ability to flip the switch at a moments notice and turn a frustrating night into a party on the basepaths. After just one run and nine left on base through six innings, the Hawkeyes exploded for eight runs in the last three innings to earn a 9-4 comeback victory against the Indiana Hoosiers.

“I was really pleased. The guys executed our plan about as well as possible,” said head coach Rick Heller. “I thought that we started to press in the third. We went outside the zone and chased a little bit and you could tell there was a bit of frustration, but it quickly went away. Marty (Sutherland) got them dialed back in.”

The Hawkeyes got a run on the board in the second inning when Indiana RF Devin Taylor uncorked a wild throw to the plate that allowed Kyle Huckstorf to score. Outside of that, the story of the first six innings was Iowa missing out on opportunities where they had runners on base. They left nine runners on base and were just 1/9 with runners in scoring position. They continued to grind out at-bats and forced Hoosiers starter Luke Sinnard out of the game after 117 pitches.

“He’s tough, I mean he’s really tough. He’s 6’8 with a downhill plane. 94 mph, gets you to chase up, full arsenal of slider, cutter, curveball and today he was hitting with his curveball,” said Heller. “He did what all really good pitchers do. When he got in trouble he turned it up a notch and made really quality pitches when he had to.”

The Hawkeyes sent Brody Brecht to the mound, but Indiana cashed in on free bases over the first two innings to take the lead. A walk and hit by pitch to open the first inning, put Brecht in immediate trouble. An double from Brock Tibbitts over the head of Frazier in right field plated two runs to make it 2-0 Hoosiers.

In the second inning a hit by pitch and a single put Brody into another threatening situation. This time, he was able to get a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, but not before a wild pitch brought in a third Hoosiers run. As rough the first two innings were, Brecht was able to settle in and retire six of seven in the third and fourth innings to settle things down. He departed in the fifth inning with runners on the corners, but Jared Simpson came on in relief and got the final out of the frame. Brecht allowed three runs on four hits and walked three, but got through 4.2 innings, which was important. It avoided the bullpen having to log extra innings.

“He got us into the fifth and logged innings and there was not a collapse. He was really struggling to hit with his slider early in the game and that got him off kilter a little bit because he turned into a one pitch pitcher,” said Heller. “(Brody) fought and started to get his slider back towards the end of his outing and he us enough to help protect the bullpen.”

Simpson logged just one inning of relief and departed the game with runners on the corners and two outs. Will Christophersen came in from the bullpen, but Phillip Glasser delivered an RBI single to extend the Indiana lead to 4-1. Through six innings, it appeared that the Hoosiers were going to win another low scoring contest over the Hawkeyes. Cue the flip of the switch for the Iowa offense.

With Sinnard out of the game, Iowa got runners on first and second for the third straight inning. This time it was against reliever Craig Yoho and this time the offense broke through. Sam Hojnar ripped a 107 mph RBI single into right field to drive in Brennen Dorighi and cut the deficit to 4-2. That prompted another pitching change from Indiana HC Jeff Mercer.

“We have a plan going into the game and we were hitting balls hard, we were getting runners on base. Just weren’t getting that one hit and we had to keep leaning on and keep sticking to our plan,” said Kyle Huckstorf. “We knew it would all come through at the end.”

And come through it did off the bat of Huckstorf himself. Connor Foley entered the game and walked Michael Seegers to bring Kyle up with the bases loaded. He took the first pitch he saw, a fastball, and turned on it for a double that got all the way to the wall in left field. His hit lcleared the bases and gave Iowa their first lead of the game, 5-4.

“He’s a heavy fastball guy, so I was just looking for it down out of the hand, so it’d be in the strikezone and then hammer it to wherever,” said Huckstorf. “It was inside, so take it to left field and good things happen.”

After allowing the RBI single in the sixth inning, Will Christophersen came back out and was about as dialed in as a pitcher can get. He struck out six, walked zero and threw 26 of his 34 (76.5%) pitches for strikes over 2.1 innings. The two zeros on the board gave the Hawkeyes a sense of control going into the top of the ninth inning.

“We end up getting the lead and I know that if we’re scoring runs, we’ve got to get them back into the dugout so they can continue doing it. Just going out there trying to throw strikes, get a quick inning and get the bats back in the dugout to keep it rolling,” said Christophersen. “They hadn’t seen me, so that might have been an advantage. It was great stuff. Love pitching in this tournament, so that was fun.”

Although the Hawkeyes felt like all the momentum was in their favor, they added on in the top of the ninth to make things comfortable going into the Hoosiers half of the ninth. Ben Wilmes drove in Brayden Frazier with an RBI single to make it 6-4. Then, in a deja vu moment back to Tuesday, Sam Petersen delivered the knockout three-run home run into the Indiana bullpen to make it 9-4.

Jack Whitlock came on for the final three outs and sat down the Hoosiers 1-2-3 to clinch the Hawkeyes 41st victory of the season. They now move onto the weekend without a loss, which means they need just one win on Saturday to reach Sunday’s championship game.

“We were excited to get another shot (at Indiana) and glad we did,” said Huckstorf. “Us hitters we really wanted another shot at Sinnard.”

The Iowa offense racked up 11 hits on the day, including at least one by every hitter in the lineup. Sam Petersen and Kyle Huckstorf each had two hits and three RBI’s. After starting the game 1/9 with runners in scoring position, the Hawkeyes finished off the game going 5/9 over the last three innings.

Up next for the Hawkeyes…

With the win, Iowa moves to 41-13 and advances on to the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes will face the winner of Indiana and Michigan on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 9:00am on the Big Ten Network. Ty Langenberg is scheduled to get the start on the mound.