OMAHA, NE – The eighth-seeded University of Iowa baseball team rallied from a three-run, eighth-inning deficit to tie the game at seven only to see fourth-seeded Ohio State use a two-out, ninth-inning rally to win the 2016 Big Ten Tournament on Sunday afternoon in front of a pro-Hawkeye crowd of 10,350 at TD Ameritrade Park.
“We never doubted we were out of this game,” said senior Tyler Peyton, one of five Hawkeyes named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team. “You saw a couple of days ago what we did to Ohio State, there was never any doubt we’d fight to the end.”
Trailing 7-4 heading to the eighth, the Hawkeyes showed that fight with a one-out rally. Freshman Robert Neustrom and senior Daniel Aaron Moriel drew back-to-back walks before pinch-hitter Devin Pickett laced a first-pitch single to left field to load the bases.
With two away, the Buckeyes summoned closer Yianni Pavlopoulos in relief and Peyton greeted him with a first-pitch, two-run double to left field to close the gap to 7-6. Iowa loaded the bases a second time via a Nick Roscetti hit by pitch before senior Joel Booker ripped an RBI single to centerfield to tie the game at seven.
“We needed to win it in the eighth, but we didn’t get the extra two-out hit to put it away,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “Joel hit the ball so hard at the center fielder that we couldn’t score the go-ahead run.”
The Hawkeyes left the bases loaded when junior Mason McCoy flew out to end the inning, and Ohio State grabbed the lead in the ninth. With two down, Big Ten Tournament MVP Ronnie Dawson hit a single to centerfield and then chugged his way around the bases to score the go-ahead run on an RBI double by Troy Kuhn.
“We were in good shape in a no doubles defense,” said Heller “…but he hammers the ball down the line to the only place where he’s going to get a double and score the run. It was a tough loss.”
Pavlopoulos retired the Hawkeyes in order in the ninth to hand Iowa its first defeat of the tournament and claim the title.
“I have no regrets really,” said Heller. “We had no walks and errors. We jumped out on top and were right where we needed to be. In the fourth, anything we threw they hammered it. You have to tip your hat, it’s not like we were giving it away.”
“To be the eighth seed, go to the championship and have a chance to win it and lose by one run,” said Booker. “I don’t think anyone saw it coming.”
The Hawkeyes stormed out of the gates, scoring four runs in the first three innings. McCoy had an RBI groundout in the first, and Iowa had four hits in a three-run third. Peyton doubled and advanced to third on a Buckeye error to lead off the inning before scoring on a one-out single from Booker to make the score 2-0.
McCoy followed with a ground-rule double to right field before sophomore Austin Guzzo’s sacrifice fly and Neustrom’s RBI single to right center gave Iowa a 4-0 lead.
Senior Calvin Mathews gave up only a first-inning single, but faced the minimum in three innings on the mound. The Buckeyes followed with a five-spot in the fourth inning against redshirt junior Ryan Erickson to take the lead.
Three straight hits, including a two-run Dawson double, started the inning. Dawson stole third on a third strike to Kuhn before scoring on a Troy Montgomery RBI drag bunt single to first base. After Jacob Bosiokovic singled to put runners on the corners, Iowa brought in C.J. Eldred in relief.
The Buckeyes tied the game on an RBI double by Jalen Washington and took their first lead on a Tre’ Gantt single to left center field. Ohio State added two runs in the seventh on a two-RBI single from Kuhn, stretching its lead to 7-4.
Ohio State out-hit the Hawkeyes, 15-12, in the game. Booker finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs, while Peyton (2-for-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs), McCoy (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), and Neustrom (2-fo-4, RBI) had two-hit games. Booker, Peyton, Guzzo, McCoy, and sophomore Nick Gallagher were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.
Martsching (2-1) suffered the loss in relief, allowing one run on three hits in 1 2/3 innings. Pavlopoulos (3-4) earned the win, getting the final five outs.
Iowa finishes the 2016 season with a 30-26 overall record. It is the first time since 1983-85 that the program has had 30 or victories in three consecutive seasons.
“We couldn’t ask for any better support from the fans,” said Peyton. “It was incredible, I have never seen an Iowa crowd like that before. They were energetic and in it the whole game. Tip the hat… that’s the support we get.”