By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Brady Schanuel overcame near freezing temperatures, an inconsistent breaking ball and the pressure of trying to avoid a doubleheader sweep to lead the Iowa baseball team to a huge victory over Indiana on Friday.
The junior from Swansea, Ill., allowed just one hit over seven innings and recorded 11 strikeouts as Iowa defeated the 11th-ranked Hoosiers 5-1 in the second game of a doubleheader at a chilly Banks Field.
Iowa needed Schanuel to respond on the mound after dropping the first game 4-2, and thanks to an overpowering fastball, he answered the challenge despite some early control problems.
Schanuel had four more strikeouts than Indiana had as a team in the second game while using five pitchers.
“I love strikeouts,” Schanuel said. “The more strikeouts you have, the less chance they have to hit it.”
Schanuel recorded his first six outs in Friday's game with strikeouts. It was the most strikeouts by an Iowa pitcher since 2004 when Nathan Johnson fanned 14 Hoosiers in Bloomington.
The only problem with striking out a lot of batters is that it causes the pitch count to rise, especially if control is an issue.
Schanuel walked four batters and threw 110 pitches in Friday’s game. But he never lost his composure or let the situation get out of hand.
“He fights back, he doesn’t give in,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said of Schanuel, who improved to 4-2 on the season. And that’s a great thing.
“But the thing big thing is he doesn’t let it snowball emotionally for him when he does walk a guy. He puts two guys on, he usually buckles down and usually pounds the zone and gets himself out of the jam, which tells you he’s doing a good job of playing it one pitch at a time, and that’s a positive thing. And he’s got great stuff. He’s got really good stuff.”
Zach Daniels pithed the final two innings of the second game and allowed just one hit while facing nine batters.
The teams were originally scheduled to play one game each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as part of a typical three-game series.
But with the threat of heavy snow on Saturday, a decision was made to play a doubleheader on Friday and one game on Sunday, which will start at 1 p.m. at Banks Field.
Iowa will bring records of 13-8 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten into Sunday’s series finale, while Indiana is 16-5 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
The Hoosiers were picked as the Big Ten preseason favorite, so to win the opening series would give Iowa early momentum in conference play.
“You feel like with our schedule, if you look at it, you’ve got to get every one that you can get,” Heller said. “That’s for sure because it’s not an easy schedule with the teams we have drawn this year in the Big Ten.
“It’s going to be like this every week for us, and I think that there are going to be a lot good RPI games in the league. But yeah, this is a good win because I think Indiana is going to be still strong in the end for sure.”
Schanuel had the luxury pitching with the lead for all but the first inning as Iowa scored two runs in the bottom of the first and one in the second.
Senior catcher Tyler Cropley led the offense in the second game with three hits, including his second home run of the season. He also scored two runs and drove in two more.
Designated hitter Chris Whelan also smacked a home run for Iowa in the second game.
"Obviously, it's not easy to lose the front end of a doubleheader and then try to come back," Whelan said. "You have a quick 30, 35 minutes to kind of forget about it and then turn around and play another game like it never happened. So I think we did a really good job of coming out early and putting up runs in the first and second innings.
"And Brady gave us an outstanding start and the defense played well. We didn't make an error all day. That was really big in the second game."
Redshirt junior Nick Allgeyer (2-2) took the loss in the first game, allowing three runs on 10 hits over seven innings. The southpaw had five strikeouts against one walk.
Heller was encouraged with how his team bounced back after dropping the first game against a conference contender.
“It says that we’re maturing,” Heller said. “The thing we talked about in the clubhouse afterwards is this team can show up every day and they are capable of going out and competing against a highly ranked team and a very talented team, a very strong offensive team with a leading pitching staff heading into Big Ten play.
“We can be right there if we start doing the little things a little bit better.”
Schanuel credited much of his success to staying composed and within himself on the mound. He wasn’t necessarily looking for strikeouts. It just worked out that way.
“I was not trying to do too much and throw strikes and throw to my spots,” Schanuel said. “If I get a strikeout fine. If they get weak contact, even better.”
Heller was pleased and impressed with how Schanuel battled and grinded throughout the game. He described Schanuel as being effectively wild on Friday.
“It was big,” Heller said. “We really need him to be able to do that if we’re going to have a good year.
“Hopefully, he can clean some things up in the early innings. But he generally cleans up his own mess.”
The fact that Schanuel couldn’t rely on his off-speed pitches made his performance even more impressive.
“He couldn’t find either one of them today and it’s tough for all the pitchers to throw in weather like this,” Heller said. “And generally, that’s the problem. You can’t get your grip or can’t get a feel on your secondary pitches. But his fastball was good today.”