OMAHA, Neb. — Jesse Franklin’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning sent third-seeded Michigan to a 2-1 walk-off victory over the sixth-seeded University of Iowa baseball team in an opening round Big Ten Tournament game Wednesday morning at TD Ameritrade Park.
The loss drops the Hawkeyes into the loser’s bracket where they will face the loser of seventh-seeded Ohio State and second-seeded Purdue in an elimination game Thursday morning at 9 a.m. (CT).
“At this point it’s survival mode,” said redshirt junior Chris Whelan of the Hawkeyes’ mentality following the loss. “It’s win or go home. It’s one frame of mind right now. There are no second chances in this situation. We dug ourselves a pretty big hole.
“It’s up to everyone, it’s up to our leaders to rally around everybody and make sure people know what’s going on.
There are no second chances in this situation, we have to push forward and come back tomorrow and play our butts off.”
The Wolverines started their 10th-inning rally by drawing back-to-back walks against Iowa reliever Zach Daniels. After Jonathan Engelmann reached on an infield single on a bang-bang play at first, Franklin lifted a fly ball to right field. Junior Robert Neustrom’s throw to the plate was on the mark, but wasn’t in time as Christian Bullock scored, giving Michigan a tournament-opening victory.
Runs and hits were hard to come by for both teams. Four Wolverine pitchers one-hit Iowa; Michigan mustered six hits in 10 innings.
“For us it felt like Michigan had 15 fielders out there,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “You hit three balls off the pitcher and you don’t get a hit. They were making diving plays left and right, same thing in the outfield — they made a nice play or it was right at them. Then we kind of hit a wall in the later innings.”
Iowa took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a Michigan fielding error. Neustrom started the inning by lining a ball off Wolverine starter Tommy Henry’s pitching arm; he left the game one batter later after issuing a walk to senior Matt Hoeg.
With two outs, sophomore Lorenzo Elion had a bloop single to right field against reliever Alec Rennard to put runners on the corners. Franklin then booted a ground ball off the bat of sophomore Ben Norman, allowing Hoeg to score to give the Hawkeyes a 1-0 lead.
Franklin atoned for his miscue in the fourth, leading off the inning with a solo home run to right center field against Iowa starter Nick Allgeyer. It tied the game at one.
The run was the only one Allgeyer surrendered. He finished the game allowing one run on four hits over seven innings and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts.
“I am really proud of Nick; he went out on short rest and toughed it out,” said Heller. “I asked Nick in the sixth if he was feeling OK, he said, ‘I haven’t felt good the whole game.’ He found a way to get it done.”
The only hit Rennard allowed came in his first inning of relief; he went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and fanning four. Jeff Criswell and William Tribucher threw the final three innings without allowing a base runner. Tribucher earned the win, his fourth of the season.
The Wolverines retired the final 20 Hawkeyes in order. Iowa’s only base runner after the second came in the fourth when Neustrom walked, but was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Daniels (6-2) suffered the loss, allowing one run on one hit in 2 1/3 innings.
QUOTING HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“Zach (Daniels) had good stuff today. Unfortunately, when it went, it went fast. The two walks were big. You hate to lose a game on two walks and an infield single and a sac fly, but that is how it went today. When the wind is blowing in at this park, as I have played here many times, runs are hard to score. That was the case today for both teams and we came out on the short end.”
- It was the first time Iowa was one hit since April 2, 2006 — a 15-1 loss against Ohio State.
- The loss was Iowa’s first in the Big Ten Tournament opener since 2014 in Heller’s first season.
- Allgeyer tied a career-high with nine strikeouts and moved up the single-season strikeouts list in the process. The southpaw passed Nick Gallagher, Wes Obermueller, and Brett Backlund into second place. He has 95 strikeouts this season.
- Allgeyer’s seven-inning outing gives him 97 innings pitched this season — the most innings since 2010 and the sixth most in a single season all-time.
- Iowa finished with 12 strikeouts in the game, its 26th game with 10 or more strikeouts.
Iowa returns to action Thursday, playing an elimination game against Ohio State at 9 a.m. (CT).