IOWA CITY, Iowa — Trailing 3-1 through three innings, the University of Iowa baseball team scored four runs in the fourth and three runs in the sixth en route to an 8-7 victory over Western Illinois on Wednesday night at Duane Banks Field.
The victory was head coach Rick Heller‘s 200th at the helm of the Hawkeyes to bring Iowa’s record to 27-16 this season.
Iowa took control of the game in the middle innings, scoring seven runs on seven hits from the fourth to the sixth inning, while retiring 10 straight Leatherneck batters in that span.
Senior Jason Foster entered in the third with two outs and two base runners and retired all four batters he faced. Freshman Duncan Davitt followed with two innings of no-hit relief, striking out four to earn his second win of the season.
“Duncan looked great tonight and we needed it at that point of the game,” Heller said. “We started off sloppy with free bases all over the place and fell behind. Duncan came in, settled things down and had great stuff. It was a positive performance.”
Iowa’s big fourth inning started with a hit-by-pitch of Ben Norman, followed by a Brendan Sher single to center field, which was one of his three hits in the game. Senior Tanner Wetrich followed with a single to left field and two Iowa runs scored when the ball got passed Western Illinois left fielder Grant Hannant.
In the sixth inning, Iowa extended its lead to 8-3, starting with an Elion RBI double to left center field that scored Wetrich. Elion finished 1-for-4 with three RBIs, which marked his first multi-RBI game of the season.
“I was coming up in those type of situations — runners on second and third and less than two outs — it’s all about doing your job,” Elion said. “(Coach) was talking about it this whole week, not being selfish and getting the job done.”
The Hawkeyes got the job done, but were tested in the bottom of the ninth, owning an 8-5 lead. In a save situation for redshirt junior and closer Grant Leonard, Western Illinois loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a hit batsman.
The Leathernecks pushed across two runs via a sacrifice fly and a single, but Leonard escaped converting his 11th save in as many chances.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was sloppy start dictated by pitching — a lot of free bases off the mound. We faced their Friday starter and Saturday starter to start the game. Our at-bats were OK. The offense got going after Duncan (Davitt) settled things down, which allowed our energy to pick back up.
“Western Illinois played hard, played well, and had some good at-bats against our good guys. It was a good game for us to find a way to win.”
- Leonard stays put in second on Iowa’s single-season saves list at 11, needing two more to tie Kevin Lee’s 13 in 2010 for the most in Iowa history. Leonard’s 13 career saves are now tied for the sixth most in Hawkeye history with Josh Martsching.
- Senior Chris Whelan (3-for-5, two runs) tallied his second three-hit game of the season.
Iowa hosts No. 19 UC Irvine at Duane Banks Field this weekend for a three-game series beginning at 6:05 p.m. (CT) Friday.