IOWA CITY, Iowa — Behind a dominant pitching performance by junior Grant Judkins and a two-RBI triple from junior Austin Martin, the University of Iowa baseball team won the series finale, 3-1, to sweep No. 23 Illinois on Sunday afternoon at Duane Banks Field.
“It’s the ultimate bounce back week for us,” senior Chris Whelan said. “It couldn’t have gone any better. I don’t want to say we planned this, but it was definitely something we had our sights set on.”
Iowa’s bounce-back effort has the Hawkeyes on a four-game winning streak and moves the Hawkeyes to 15-10 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten. It’s Iowa’s first series sweep over a ranked team since 2015 when Iowa took three from No. 19 Indiana.
“It’s a huge momentum boost,” said winning pitcher Grant Judkins. “Coming off last weekend (at Indiana) was a little disappointing.”
Three runs were all Judkins (3-2) and the Hawkeye bullpen needed. Judkins scattered six hits and walked only one in seven innings. It’s the fifth time in seven starts Judkins has allowed one or fewer runs.
“I saw the wind was blowing in, so my goal for the game was to command the zone and pound it,” Judkins said. “Let them get themselves out and let my defense work. They did a great job behind me.”
The Pella, Iowa, native sat down seven straight Illinois batters starting in the fourth, but had to work out of a first-and-third jam in the sixth. Judkins gave way to junior Trace Hoffman in the seventh after allowing the leadoff man to reach.
With the bases loaded and only one out for Illinois, Hoffman and the Hawkeyes worked out of the jam in the least conventional way possible. Junior Ben Norman caught a fly ball in left and fired home, but the Illinois baserunners were not on the same page. Michael Michalak was eventually tagged out at home on a 9-2-6-2 putout that fired up the Duane Banks crowd.
Junior Grant Leonard closed out the ninth to earn his sixth save of the season, but it wasn’t easy. With the bases loaded after two singles and an error, Tanner Wetrich made up for his mistake to get the game-ending out on a slow grounder up the middle.
Iowa pitchers stranded 10 Illini batters, including five in the final two innings.
Illinois scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning when Jack Yalowitz, who reached on a two-out walk, came around to score on a single by Jeff Korte. The Hawkeyes had base runners in the first and second innings, but trailed 1-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
Iowa’s three-run third inning featured five walks and one hit — a triple off the bat of catcher Austin Martin. Martin’s three bagger to right center field scored junior Zeb Adreon and senior Mitchell Boe, who reached on walks. Redshirt freshman Connor McCaffery worked a bases-loaded walk to put the Hawkeyes on top 3-1 after three.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was a make-or-break week for me with the process because if we were going to go pout and worry about what happened last weekend at Indiana, with Illinois coming to town. We had no time to feel sorry about ourselves. It was a big week for this team, especially with all the injuries and the other things that were going along with what happened last week. To see if they’re bought in or not and I think this was a great sign that they are.”
- Today’s win also marked Iowa’s first Big Ten three-game series sweep since last season vs. Penn State.
- Judkins ERA is down to 1.69, allowing only eight earned runs in 42 2/3 innings.
- Martin’s triple in the third was the first of his career.
Iowa hosts Grand View on Tuesday with first pitch set for 4:05 p.m. (CT).