By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa baseball team scored 16 runs, pounded 16 hits, including seven home runs, had zero errors and led 8-0 after three innings against Missouri on Tuesday, but still lost.
So that should tell you something about Iowa’s pitching, or lack of it.
“First of all, I thought we had great at bats up and down the lineup today,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said after the 17-16 loss in 11 innings at Banks Field. “To jump out to the lead that we did, then when we gave it up, we throw a five-spot back up there and looked to put it away in the sixth (inning).
“And then unfortunately, we just didn’t pitch very good at all today, especially the guys in the middle innings. We let them back into it and once they got hot, it was just a bunch of ground balls finding holes and we couldn't stop it. But we didn’t quit. There were some big-time at bats in that game. Some clutch at bats. A lot of guys stepped up big time.”
Senior catcher Tyler Cropley stayed hot at the plate by belting two of Iowa's seven home runs in Tuesday’s game, including a solo blast that gave Iowa a 14-13 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Cropley also hit a two-run walk-off homer to defeat Big Ten leader Michigan 7-5 on Sunday.
Missouri answered with two runs in the top of the ninth, but couldn’t hold the lead as Iowa second baseman Mitchell Boe hit a solo home run down the left-field line to even the score at 15.
The Tigers also scored two runs in the 11th inning and that proved to be enough, but just barely as Iowa designated hitter Chris Whelan smacked a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning.
Iowa fell to 26-15 and will face Western Illinois in another nonconference mid-week game on Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. at Banks Field, while Missouri improved to 30-15. The Tigers also committed no errors and finished with 20 hits, including five doubles and one home run.
Tuesday’s game lasted just under five hours and both teams used eight pitchers.
“It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever been a part of, especially with no errors on defense,” Cropley said.
The Hawkeyes erupted for six runs on five hits in the second inning and led 8-0 heading to the fourth inning.
But instead of folding, Missouri chipped away at the lead and cut the deficit to 8-6 in the sixth inning.
Iowa landed a quick counterpunch, though, by scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 13-6 lead.
Missouri then answered with seven runs in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to force extra innings.
“It’s a beautiful game,” said Iowa right fielder Robert Neustrom. “But this can happen at any given moment pretty much in any game.”
“If anybody was here today and saw us play, we can compete. We can play. Pitching just went kind of haywire today. I don’t think you can knock our hitting today.
“But I know those pitchers are going to do better on another day, too. It’s not just that. It’s not going to be a consistent thing like this.”
Neustrom and Cropley both led Iowa with three hits apiece. Neustrom hit his eighth home run this season and smacked two doubles.
Missouri first baseman Brett Bond finished with five hits and scored two runs.
Tuesday’s game was added recently to the schedule after Iowa had two conference games cancelled because of the weather.
Both teams combined to walk 15 batters and the game included numerous trips to the mound by coaches from both staffs.
Missouri coach Steve Bieser was ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire in the bottom of the 11th inning. Bieser was upset with a pitch that he thought was a strike being called a ball.
He stormed out of the dugout to protest and was quickly tossed from the game.
Heller had to be selective with who he used on the mound in Tuesday’s game with a game on Wednesday. He also didn’t have the luxury of using ace reliever Zach Daniels on Tuesday because Daniels might have to become a starter with Cole McDonald's status uncertain.
“The frustrating thing is having a game tomorrow and knowing that you couldn’t use some of the guys that maybe you would have used because you have to have enough arms to make it through tomorrow,” Heller said. “And then not having Zach Daniels to be able to come in and close the door, that was the frustrating part.
“But it is what it is.”
Starting pitcher Cole McDonald also will have an MRI on his right arm on Wednesday after being pulled from Sunday’s game against Michigan because of pain. McDonald already has had Tommy John surgery on his arm.
McDonald was removed from the Michigan game after throwing a pitch that caused significant pain in his arm.
“Just based on track record and my history of seeing it when it happens that way, I have not seen one that wasn’t really bad when it was that one pitch type deal,” Heller said.
Trenton Wallace pitched the first three innings of Tuesday’s and allowed no runs. However, he was removed from the game after experiencing tightness in his forearm.
“He’s had some off-and-on tightness in his forearm for about a month,” Heller said. “It feels good one week, doesn’t feel so good the next week. He didn’t have a situation like McDonald where it was like one pitch. It started tightening up in the third and he just said it was getting really tight and didn’t want to take any chances.”
Heller said freshman Jack Dreyer will get the start on the mound against Western Illinois on Wednesday.