OMAHA, Neb. — Senior Cole McDonald’s eight-inning, nine-strikeout performance lifted the eighth-seeded University of Iowa baseball team to a 4-2 opening round Big Ten Tournament victory over top-seeded and 21st-ranked Indiana on Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
McDonald was perfect through three innings with four strikeouts, while not allowing a ball to leave the infield and exited with a 4-1 lead after a dominant, effective 108 pitches with 71 strikes.
“The last four years have been the greatest of my life and I love representing Iowa across my chest,” said McDonald, who earned his sixth win of the season. “If it was my last game, I wanted to go out on the right note and give everything I had. We have a great group of guys, I know we can keep on playing and I don’t want our season to end.”
It was a pitcher’s duel with Indiana’s Pauly Milto through six innings before the Hoosiers scored the game’s first run in the sixth inning.
Indiana’s 1-0 was short-lived when Iowa scored three runs in the seventh inning, while adding a run in the eighth to take a 4-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth.
Iowa’s offense manufactured runs and junior closer Grant Leonard entered Iowa’s record books with his 14th save of the season, but it was McDonald’s day from the start. The right-hander pitched eight innings for the second time this season, allowing only one run on five hits.
McDonald used double plays in the sixth and seventh to get out of mini jams and finished his day with a 1-2-3 eighth inning before handing the ball over to Leonard, who locked down his record-breaking 14th save of the season in the ninth inning despite allowing one run on two hits.
Iowa’s three-run seventh inning featured three hits with RBIs from senior Tanner Wetrich, senior Chris Whelan, and sophomore Izaya Fullard. Iowa’s balanced offense recorded nine hits with six Hawkeyes recording at least one hit. Junior Justin Jenkins led Iowa with three hits from the nine hole, while junior Ben Norman scored two runs.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was a great game with two good pitchers going at it. I couldn’t be prouder with how our team showed up and how dialed in we were in all facets of the game. Cole McDonald was outstanding tonight. He located his fastball on both sides of the plate and he located his off-speed all night long. He gave us exactly what we needed.
“Offensively, we hit some barrels early. (Pauly) Milto was good tonight. We finally broke through. Justin Jenkins had an awesome game tonight. He picked us up at the bottom of the order. It was an overall team effort and a great game. I couldn’t be happier with the effort.”
- Since 2014 when the Big Ten Tournament expanded to eight teams, No. 8 seeds are 5-9 all-time with the Hawkeyes owning all five victories (1 in 2014, three in 2016, and 1 in 2019).
- Jenkins doubled and had two singles to record his first career three-hit game.
- McDonald’s sixth win of the season is his first career victory in the Big Ten Tournament.
- Leonard’s save moves him past Kevin Lee for the single-season school record with 14.
- Fullard extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games and his on-base streak to 22 contests.
Iowa will face Nebraska at 9 p.m. (CT) Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park.