Hawkeye Baseball Drops Big Ten Opener

Iowa Sports Information

OMAHA, Neb. — Top-seeded and eighth-ranked Indiana broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the fourth inning en route to a 5-2 victory over the University of Iowa baseball team Wednesday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at TD Ameritrade Park.

“We came out and competed hard, but we knew we were going to have to play a clean game to beat Indiana and catch a break or two,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “We feel like with the three (Indiana) errors we were given a chance if we played great, but we just didn’t pitch well enough to get it done.”

After the Hawkeyes tied the game in the top of the fourth, the Hoosiers answered, using a pair of extra base hits and an RBI groundout to take a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Nine-hole hitter Tim O’Conner started things off with a one-out double down the left field line — his first extra base hit of the season — before scoring on an RBI triple into the right centerfield gap by Casey Rodrigue to give Indiana a 3-2 lead. IU catcher Kyle Schwarber followed with an RBI groundout, pushing the lead to 4-2.

Iowa starter Sasha Kuebel’s day was done an inning later following a leadoff walk by Dustin DeMuth. After advancing to second on a Nick Hibbing balk and third on a Brad Hartong single, DeMuth crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Will Nolden, pushing the advantage to 5-2.

DeNato (12-1) closed the door on the Hawkeyes, allowing three hits from the fourth inning on. The southpaw allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits over eight innings for the game en route to his 12th victory. The Big Ten Pitcher of the Year had nine strikeouts against zero walks, while reliever Luke Harrison got the final three outs en route to his third save of the season.

“DeNato was tough (over his final four innings) and settled in,” Heller said. “He got us to chase the slider, which was what we tried not to do, and he was tough on our left-handers.”

Kuebel (6-5) was tagged with the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits over four innings. Hibbing was solid in relief, scattering three hits over the final four frames.

Three Hawkeyes — Eric Toole, Tyler Peyton and Dan Potempa — accounted for six of Iowa’s eight hits. Toole and Peyton were 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Potempa was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Junior Jake Mangler saw his 29-game reached base streak come to a close, as he finished 0-for-4.

Iowa struck first, plating the game’s first run when Toole scored in the top of the first. The junior singled to lead off the contest before advancing two bases on an errant pickoff throw by DeNato. Mangler followed with an RBI groundout for his 45th RBI of the season.

After leaving a pair of runners stranded in the first, Indiana grabbed the lead in the bottom of the second inning, plating a pair of runs on two hits and one Iowa error. Hartong reached on a fielding error by Nick Day to start the frame before scoring on a one-out RBI single by Nick Ramos. Rodrigue made the score 2-0 with an RBI double over the head of Toole in centerfield.

The Hawkeyes evened the game at two in the top of the fourth inning, but squandered a golden opportunity for more.

Peyton singled to lead things off before junior Jake Yacinich reached on a second DeNato error — his second of the game — putting a pair of runners on base. Potempa plated Iowa’s second run with an RBI single through the left side, but that would be all Iowa would get. DeNato closed the door on the inning getting a strikeout and ground out and Yacinich was caught stealing for just the fourth time in 28 chances this season.

Iowa (29-22) returns to action Thursday at 1 p.m. (CT), facing the loser of the No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Michigan contest in an elimination game.

“There is no time to cry about it,” Heller said. “We don’t have any time to worry about it. We’ll bounce back; I am not worried about that. Our guys will go out and give a great effort tomorrow ... that’s all we can do.”

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