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Hawkeyes shutout Michigan State in the series opener

6 min read
Hawkeyes shutout Michigan State in the series opener

A college baseball season entails 50+ games and hundreds of moments that can make or break a season, so it is hard to call any one series “season defining”, but this weekend’s matchup between the Hawkeyes and Spartans is pretty important. A series win for the Hawkeyes would keep them in comfortable NCAA Tournament position, while a series loss would turn up the pressure a couple of notches. The Iowa pitching staff limited the top hitting offense in the Big Ten to just three hits, while the offense collected 11 hits en route to a 9-0 series opening win.

“As a coach, you’re always scared after finals week. You just don’t really know what you’re going to get with finals and then you throw in some added stressors and also flipping your Friday night guys,” said head coach Rick Heller. “Just a lot of things that could have been excuses to not be very good tonight and we played as well as we’ve played in a long time.”

The pitching staff set the tone and it started with Marcus Morgan who was making his first Friday start of his career. Things got off to a rocky start with back-to-back walks to open the game, but he was able to get out of trouble with a strikeout and a 6U-3 double play. The Spartans got the leadoff runner on base in each of the first four innings, but they were all free bases issued by Morgan. He was able to work around the traffic and finally settled in when he made the switch to pitching out of the stretch at all times in the fourth inning.

“I think I was throwing a lot more competitive pitches out of the stretch. I wasn’t losing too much velo so I was like screw it we’ll just go out of the stretch. Felt good and cruised from there,” said Morgan.

“I think just trusting my stuff and putting it in there and when I’m putting it in there at a high rate, I know guys are going to struggle. I don’t think there’s too many guys out there with my arsenal, so if I’m crisp and I’m throwing it over the dish, I’m going to make it hard on them.”

After a leadoff walk to begin the fourth inning, Marcus retired nine in a row to end his night on the mound. His final line read 6.0 innings, 0 hits, 6 strikeouts, four walks and a career-high 96 pitches. After issuing five free bases in the first four innings, he rebounded to throw 53.1% of his pitches for strikes.

“Maybe wish it was a little cleaner and not put leadoff guys on and make it harder on him, but he had great stuff tonight,” said Coach Heller. “Once he got in the stretch, he seemed to throw more strikes…He had really good stuff. His fastball was good. Cutter, slider, change up, he struggled in the first inning to find it, but once he did, he sailed and didn’t give up a hit.”

At the plate, the Hawkeyes got things going in the second inning to help out their starting pitcher on the mound. Sam Petersen blasted his ninth home run of the season, a 436-foot, solo home run to left field to put Iowa up 1-0. Later in the inning with two outs, Brayden Frazier doubled down the line to set the table for Cade Moss. Moss delivered an RBI single just over the glove of a leaping Mitch Jebb at SS and Iowa took a 2-0 lead into the third inning.

Hitting the ball all the way to the graduation ceremony at Carver @Petersen11Sam x #Hawkeyes

— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 12, 2023

In the third inning, Iowa started another two out rally with back-to-back singles from Kyle Huckstorf and Sam Petersen. Coach Rick Heller elected to go full Hellerball mode and went with a double steal attempt. Petersen was tagged out in a short lived rundown, but not before Huckstorf crossed homeplate to make it 3-0.

Then in the fourth, Brayden Frazier, who was in the lineup in place of Keaton Anthony, hit a two-run home run over the left field wall to extend the Hawkeyes lead to 5-0. Frazier finished with two hits, two RBI’s and two runs scored.

“He did a great job. He was aggressive, he attacked fastballs in the zone and I could tell he felt good,” said Heller. “I could tell he was seeing it well. He was confident and he came through. Happy for him, for a guy that’s been here as long as he has.”

Jared Simpson came on in relief of Morgan and was able to pick up where Marcus left off. Bryan Broecker broke up the no-hitter with a single in the seventh inning, but a smooth 4-6-3 double play ended the inning. Sam Hojnar ranged to his right and glove flipped it to Michael Seegers, who spun and threw to Brennen Dorighi at first.

𝙉𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙚 #SCTop10 x #Hawkeyes

— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 13, 2023

The Iowa offense added some insurance in the eighth inning to make sure things were comfortable for Simpson on the mound. A pair of hits and a walk loaded the bases, while a Cade Moss hit by pitch pushed the lead to 7-0. Raider Tello delivered a two out, two-run triple into the right center gap and all the sudden it was a 9-0 advantage for the Hawkeyes.


— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 13, 2023

Jared Simpson finished the game off with a pair of K’s in the ninth and Iowa picked up the series opening shutout victory. Simpson went 3.0 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He threw 32 of his 45 (71.1%) pitches for strikes.

“Jared was really sharp tonight and did a nice job,” said Heller. “Three hit shutout combined with those two against the best hitting team in the league. Pretty impressive night.”

Sam Petersen led the way offensively with a 4/4 night, including a home run and three singles. He now leads the team with a .355 batting average and continues to look good in the box after missing nine games earlier in the year with a broken finger. He kept bringing the Hawkeyes good night on offense back to the fact that Marcus Morgan had a good night on the mound.

“It just felt like we were always hitting and in the dugout off of our feet,” said Petersen. “You just stay dialed in when every pitch is like that. You know he’s competing and you want to do something good for him when he’s getting us outs. He competed his ass off and we want to do the same for him.”

The Iowa offense racked up 11 hits and four walks to just five strikeouts. Brayden Frazier, Raider Tello and Cade Moss each had two RBI’s. The top three in the lineup were just 2/13 (.154), but the bottom six combined to go 9/21 (.429). The Hawkeyes are averaging 10.75 runs over the last four games and tonight was another sign that this group is equipped to handle the loss of Keaton Anthony for an extended period.

“We never doubted that we could do it, but it is nice to show it,” said Petersen. “This whole year we’ve talked about the one-ninth and that will never change, no matter who’s in the lineup.”

“You’d like to see those guys at the top do a little bit more, but the other guys just did their job,” said Coach Heller. “They picked us up. Petersen had a great game and we’ve got analysts that told us that Brayden Frazier was a great matchup for the lefty we were facing. Look what happened, put him in there and tip of the hat to those guys because they were adamant that Frazier was the guy that needed to play tonight.”

Up next for the Hawkeyes…

With the win, Iowa moves to 35-12 and 11-7 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes moved up a couple of spots to #36 in the RPI and sit in fourth place in the conference standings. They will go for a series win tomorrow afternoon with Ty Langenberg facing off against Nolan Higgins on the mound. First pitch has been moved up to 11:05am due to forecasted thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening.

The post Hawkeyes shutout Michigan State in the series opener appeared first on On3.

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