OMAHA, Neb. – Mason McCoy’s walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning completed a five-run rally, as the University of Iowa fought back from a 4-0 ninth-inning deficit to defeat fourth-seeded Ohio State, 5-4, in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
The win keeps the Hawkeyes in the winner’s bracket, where it will face either Maryland or Indiana on Saturday morning — weather permitting. It was Rick Heller’s 100th career victory as Iowa’s head coach.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” said Heller, whose team improved to 2-23 when trailing after eight innings. “It’s kind of the story of the season. A lot of times we had the opportunity to give up and assume it was over. It goes to show you what you can do if you never give up.
“(OSU starter John) Havird pitched well, tip our hat to him. I felt like at some point if we stuck to our plan they’d start falling for us, and they did in the ninth.”
Iowa was down to its final three outs when Ohio State went to its bullpen after starter John Havird stifled the Hawkeyes for eight innings, scattering two hits and fanning four in an efficient 95-pitch outing.
Senior Tyler Peyton started the inning with a single to centerfield — just the third Hawkeye hit of the day — against reliever Seth Kinker. Seniors Nick Roscetti and Joel Booker followed with first-pitch hits to load the bases before junior Mason McCoy plated Iowa’s first run with a fourth-straight single.
After a Daniel Aaron Moriel double play ball plated a second run, making the score 4-2, sophomore Austin Guzzo closed the gap to 4-3 with an RBI single up the middle, ending Kinker’s day. Pinch-hitter Jimmy Frankos put the tying run in scoring position, reaching on a hit-by-pitch against Michael Horejsei.
Ohio State summoned its closer, Yianni Pavlopoulos, and junior Devin Pickett stepped to the plate with the game in the balance. The outfielder produced, fisting an RBI single to left center field to tie the game at four. It was Pickett’s first career RBI.
“I am proud of Devin,” said Heller. “He hasn’t had a chance to play much this year. It’s another example of instead of complaining and whining he became the best teammate he could be and helped this team every opportunity he had any way he could.
“He comes in and gets a big hit. Jimmy came in and found a way to get on base. It was a great team effort and I am proud of our guys.”
The Buckeyes threatened in the top of the 10th, putting two runners on against UI reliever Josh Martsching, but the right-hander got a fly out and struck out Jacob Bosiokovic looking to keep the momentum in Iowa’s favor.
Peyton was in the middle of the rally in the 10th, drawing a leadoff walk before Roscetti put down a sacrifice bunt and Peyton was safe when Pavlopoulos air-mailed the ball into center field. After Booker got beaned to load the bases, McCoy ripped a 1-1 pitch into the right centerfield gap to send the Hawkeyes to their third walk-off victory of the season.
“Our fans did a nice job and showed up,” said Heller. “They were behind us all day. In those later innings, it felt like a home-field advantage and the Hawkeye fans came out for us. They were loud and made a lot of noise. That helped the rally.”
Martsching (2-0) earned the victory, allowing one hit and striking out a pair in the 10th. Peyton allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings, fanning five, and senior Luke Vandermaten allowed one run on four hits in two innings.
The Buckeyes grabbed the early lead in the fourth, when Craig Nennig scored on a Troy Kuhn fielder’s choice. Peyton snared a grounder and tried to start a double play, but Ronnie Dawson’s slide broke up twin-killing.
Ohio State extended its lead in the fifth, using three straight singles to load the bases before Peyton hit Nick Sergakis to knock in the second run. Nennig’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-0, and the Buckeyes added an insurance run in the ninth on a Tre’ Gantt RBI single.
Iowa finished with nine hits in the game — seven coming in the final two innings. Peyton (2-for-4, 2 runs) and McCoy (2-for-5, 2 RBIs) tallied multi-hit games. McCoy extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
“We needed to find a way to win that one if we had a realistic shot to win the tournament to be able to come back and do that gives us a legit shot,” said Heller.