IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sophomore Ben Norman’s opposite field RBI double broke a one-all tie and sent the University of Iowa baseball team to an eventual 3-1 series-opening victory over Penn State on Thursday night at Duane Banks Field.
The victory clinched Iowa’s school-record fifth straight Big Ten Tournament appearance. The Hawkeyes are 31-18 overall and 11-9 in Big Ten play.
After Penn State tied the game in the top of the eighth against Iowa reliever Zach Daniels, the Hawkeyes had an answer in the bottom half. Sophomore Kyle Crowl drew a leadoff walk to start the rally before Norman hit a double down the left field line to give Iowa a 2-1 lead.
“I was just trying to go up to that at-bat and put a good swing on it,” said Norman. “I ended up finding a hole, which is what we needed and I was glad that it got down.”
Redshirt junior Chris Whelan’s RBI single gave the Hawkeyes an insurance run as he singled through the right side, extending the lead to 3-1. Daniels pitched around a one-out walk in the ninth to secure his sixth victory of the season.
Junior Nick Allgeyer was solid in his 12th quality start of the season. The southpaw allowed five hits over seven shutout innings and finished with six strikeouts. Daniels punched out four in two innings of relief, as he improved to 6-1 on the season.
“I try and go out and do the same thing every series opener, it doesn’t matter who we are playing,” said Allgeyer. “Tonight was one of those nights where the result was good, but there’s a lot of things to work on.”
After five scoreless innings, Iowa’s offense got going in the bottom of the sixth against Penn State reliever Taylor Lehman. Senior Matt Hoeg reached on a throwing error from third before Crowl walked and Justin Jenkins laid down a bunt single to load the bases.
Iowa grabbed the lead after a stellar at-bat by sophomore Mitchell Boe, as he drew a walk to give the Hawkeyes a 1-0 lead.
Penn State evened the game in the eighth when Ryan Sloniger’s RBI single plated Jordan Bowersox. Bowersox started the Nittany Lion rally with a one-out double to left field.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was a traditional Friday night pitchers’ duel on a Thursday night. I was impressed with (PSU starter Bailey) Dees and how he pitched for five innings. He was steady and held our offense down. We had a couple two-out chances and didn’t do anything with it. The positive is that Allgeyer was matching them and gave us a great start. We gave up a run and fought through it with Daniels closing it down in the ninth.”
Allgeyer went seven innings on the mound with six strikeouts. He now has 86 strikeouts this season, moving into fifth place on the single-season list. Allgeyer has posted a quality start in 12 of 14 starts this season.
Junior Chris Whelan paced Iowa offensively, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. It was his 13th multi-hit game of the season.
Penn State out-hit Iowa, 8-6, in the game. It was Iowa’s sixth victory this season (6-14) when being out-hit by its opponent.
The win was Iowa’s 31st victory of the season, giving the Hawkeyes 141 wins over the past four seasons. It is the best four-year stretch in school history.
The Hawkeyes improve to 18-6 at Duane Banks Field this season.
Game two of the series is set for 6:05 p.m. (CT) Friday night. Junior Cole McDonald will take the mound for the Hawkeyes.