IOWA CITY, Iowa — Behind 6 1/3 shutout innings from junior Cole McDonald and a four-run sixth inning highlighted by Izaya Fullard’s three-run home run, the University of Iowa baseball team took the series opener, 6-1, over Rutgers on Friday night at Duane Banks Field.
What started as a pitcher’s duel between McDonald and Rutgers’ Harry Rutkowski, ended with a barrage of hits from the Hawkeye offense.
McDonald, who threw a season-high 117 pitches, worked around seven hits and three walks to throw his first scoreless start of the season. The New Hampton, Iowa, native struck out at least one batter in every inning to finish the game with eight strikeouts.
“I felt really good,” McDonald said. “My goal was to go out there and pound the zone with all my pitches. I felt like I was effective; working both sides of the plate and mixing speeds. That’s what made me effective tonight, especially to get out of some situations that I put myself in.
“Cole’s one of our toughest kids, hardest workers, and captain,” said head coach Rick Heller on McDonald’s ability to work out of numerous jams. “He’s there for a reason and that’s what you expect of your Friday night guy.”
Iowa’s offense finally got to Rutkowski in the sixth inning. Senior Chris Whelan, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk, singled to left with one out, and senior Mitchell Boe followed with a walk. Junior Austin Martin doubled to left center field for his second hit of the game to push across the game’s first run.
Fullard kept Iowa’s offensive output going with a towering three-run home run to left field over the scoreboard, putting the Hawkeyes ahead 4-0 through six innings.
“It was special,” said Fullard, who hit his second career home run and first at home. “I’ve always wanted to be a Hawk. To be able to hit my first home run here, especially in a game like this — in Big Ten play — it was a dream come true.”
Boe tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth inning on a two-out, two-RBI double to the right center field gap.
Junior Trace Hoffman pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to close out the game and earn the first save of his career.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“We came out ready to play. We were focused and had good intensity, but were also having fun and playing loose on the other side, too. (Harry) Rutkowski was really good for Rutgers, as advertised. He really held us down. Cole (McDonald) did a great job and gave us a good start. Rutgers hitters battled with two strikes and put us in some jams that Cole was able to work out of.
“It’s a lot easier to score when you get some extra-base hits. We hadn’t been doing a lot of that lately, so that was a real positive.”
- McDonald has struck out 24 batters over his last three starts and his ERA sits at a season-best 4.30.
- Martin recorded his second straight multi-hit game to increase his season total to a team-high 13. Whelan and Fullard also recorded multi-hit games.
- Hoffman became the fourth Hawkeye to earn a save this season.
- Ben Norman’s career-high 15-game on-base streak was snapped after an 0-for-4 night.
Game two is set for tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. (CT) at Duane Banks Field.