CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Iowa baseball team built an early lead and held off a late rally to down No. 22 Illinois, 8-5, in the series opener Friday night at Illinois Field.
The victory was Iowa’s second over a ranked opponent this season and it improves the Hawkeyes’ record to 15-8 overall, 2-1 in Big Ten play.
The Hawkeyes grabbed the early lead in the first when junior Robert Neustrom scored on a wild pitch. Illinois then took the lead with single runs in the first and second before Iowa put up a crooked number in the third to build a 6-2 lead.
Iowa got singles from Mitchell Boe and Chris Whelan to start the third before Neustrom’s two-run single gave the Hawkeyes a 3-2 lead. Following a Tyler Cropley walk, Iowa strung together hits — back-to-back doubles from Austin Guzzo and Kyle Crowl and a Justin Jenkins sacrifice fly to make the score 6-2.
The Hawkeyes knocked out Illinois starter Quinn Snarskis after two innings, roughing him up to the tune of six runs on five hits.
The Hawkeyes tacked on one final insurance run in the fourth when Neustrom hit a no-doubt solo home run to right field, making the score 7-2. It was Neustrom’s team-leading fifth home run of the season.
Illinois cut into Iowa’s lead with two runs in the sixth on a Bren Spillane home run before the Hawkeyes walked in the fifth run in the seventh.
The Illini loaded the bases in both the seventh and eighth innings, but reliever Zach Daniels got out of both jams unscathed, inducing an inning-ending double play in the seventh before striking out pinch-hitter Tyler Engel to end the eighth.
Redshirt junior Nick Allgeyer (3-2) earned the victory, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight while issuing one walk. Sophomore Grant Leonard retired Illinois in order in the ninth to notch his second save in as many chances.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“I thought our at-bats up and down the lineup were quality. Neustrom is heating up and Cropley has been good for us all year. We are starting to get the offense going and it has just taken us a while to get there. Zach Daniels did a good job battling for us at the end and we were able to hold off for the win.”
- Iowa’s win snapped Illinois’ six-game winning streak. The Illini had won eight of their previous nine games and were undefeated in Big Ten play.
- The Hawkeyes out hit the Illini, 10-7. Neustrom paced the team, finishing 3-for-4 with three RBIs and four runs scored, while Crowl was 2-for-5 with an RBI.
- Neustrom has a team-leading 10 multi-hit games and he has hit safely in nine straight games in reached safely in 13 consecutive games.
- Iowa has homered in five straight games and in nine of the last 10 contests.
- Allgeyer has three games this season with seven or more strikeouts. His eight strikeouts match a career-high.
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday for game two beginning at 3 p.m. (CT).