OMAHA, Neb. – Redshirt senior Izaya Fullard’s two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth inning sent the third-seeded University of Iowa baseball team to a 5-4 victory over No. 7 seed Purdue on Friday morning in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game at Charles Schwab Field Omaha.
Sophomore Michael Seegers started the ninth inning rally with a one-out single to centerfield and heady base running saw him move into scoring position on Peyton Williams’ foul out to Troy Viola – a ball that was caught down the left field line while landing on the tarp along the wall.
“Viola made one of the best plays I have ever seen,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “He was stuck in the crack and couldn’t get out and Michael took advantage and got to second and that gave us a chance to get a two-out knock.”
After Purdue intentionally walked Keaton Anthony, Fullard fell behind 0-2 before hitting a hard single to left field to give Iowa the 5-4 lead.
“When I got on deck, I knew they were going to walk Keaton,” said Fullard. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t, he’s one of the best hitters in the Big Ten and I had been struggling to that point. I was excited, that’s why you play the game.
“I got behind 0-2 right away and that last pitch I saw him shake off and smirk a little bit. I don’t know why, but it made me think he was going to blow a fastball by me. I made sure to get on time for a fast ball and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Redshirt sophomore Will Christophersen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, including two punch outs, to keep Iowa alive. The right-hander earned his first win as a Hawkeye, pitching 2 1/3 shutout innings with five strikeouts.
“The slider was working today,” said Christophersen. “I was glad it turned out this way.”
Purdue jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Viola hit a solo home run to left field off redshirt senior starter Dylan Nedved.
After recording one hit through four innings, Iowa averted to small ball to put pressure on the Boilermakers in the fifth. Iowa scored three runs on three hits – with only one leaving the infield. The Hawkeyes scored a run on a passed ball, a Seegers safety squeeze and a wild pitch to take a 3-1 lead.
“Sometimes you have to play small ball like that to get things going,” said Fullard. “Yesterday against Penn State we were struggling to produce runs and get hits. We struggled early today, so being able to bunt and move guys over and play the small game, that opened up the offense for us and I think that will carry into tomorrow.”
Purdue got one run back in the bottom of the fifth on Steve Ramirez’s RBI ground out before the Hawkeyes pushed their lead back to two runs on Cade Moss’ RBI double down the left field line.
The Boilermakers followed with a three-hit bottom of the sixth with two runs scoring on a Hawkeye fielding error that tied the game at four. Purdue kept the pressure on, putting two runners on with nobody out in the seventh.
Redshirt senior Ben Beutel picked off Ramirez on a wheel pickoff play for the first out and Sam Petersen played a ball perfectly off the left field wall, holding CJ Valdez to a single and keeping the go-ahead run at third base. Christophersen entered and fanned Viola to end the inning.
Nedved allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits over six innings, fanning four without issuing a walk.
QUOTING COACH HELLER
“It was a hard-fought game. I am proud of our team, just sticking with it and trying to find a way to get it done today when we were having a hard time hitting some barrels early in that game. Tip my hat to Purdue, they played just as hard. It was a great game.”
OF NOTE –
The Hawkeyes have now won at least one game in six of the last seven Big Ten Tournaments.
Iowa had a season-high three sacrifice hits in the game.
Anthony extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games.
The Hawkeyes will face the loser of the Rutgers-Penn State in an elimination game on Saturday at 9 a.m. (CT).