IOWA CITY, Iowa – Izaya Fullard stood on third base, driven there by the double from Brendan Sher.
Two runners on, no one out, sixth inning, Iowa down by two runs after once being down by six.
These innings are what May is about and, for the Hawkeyes, it meant so much.
Then, just like that, the inning was over.
Ben Wilmes, a strikeout swinging.
Brett McCleary, a strikeout looking.
Kyle Huckstorf, a strikeout looking.
Three innings remained, but really, it was game over.
Iowa’s 10-6 loss to Purdue on Saturday at Duane Banks Field was one of those games a team has to win in May if it wants to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
It was a bright, warm day — so unusual for this spring.
But everything is a little brighter and warmer in May, when the crucible of college baseball’s calendar starts to squeeze.
The Hawkeyes (27-16 overall, 11-6 Big Ten) needed to get this win. A series win over the Boilermakers (26-15, 7-8) would be nice — it would be the third consecutive for Iowa in conference play.
But after a Tuesday loss to Illinois State, a sweep of the Boilermakers would have looked a lot better.
The sixth inning doomed those hopes.
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“The sixth inning really killed us,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “That was huge.”
Iowa was down 6-0 after 3 ½ innings, but a four-run fifth provided a little life.
Fullard’s single, and then Sher’s double, put the Hawkeyes in position to tie the game, maybe have another big inning like the one before to take the lead.
And then, nothing.
“Ah, it was huge,” said designated hitter Keaton Anthony, who pounded a three-run home run to left field in the fifth inning. “We had a bunch of momentum going into the sixth. Lot of guys were up, energy was high. Brendan had his double. And then, three strikeouts. We know that was unacceptable. That’s just not us. I felt a major momentum swing there.”
The Hawkeyes’ pitching couldn’t get that momentum back. Brody Brecht struck out two to open the seventh inning then had Troy Viola’s fly ball misplayed into a double. One wild pitch got Viola to third, and a second one brought him home for a 7-4 Purdue lead. Three runs in the eighth off Chas Wheatley and Ben Beutel just added to the margin.
Iowa got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth when Cade Moss’ two-out double scored Sher and Wilmes. Then Huckstorf’s grounder up the middle was grabbed, and then bobbled, by Purdue shortstop Evan Albrecht, but Albrecht threw to first to barely get Huckstorf to end the inning. Huckstorf fired his helmet to the ground in disgust, and the Hawkeyes’ best hope was done.
They had been battling from behind all day. Connor Schultz gave up three runs in 2 ⅔ innings, Dylan Nedved gave up three runs and five hits in 3 ⅓ innings, and the hill just seemed too steep.
“It didn’t start out well,” Heller said. “We didn’t pitch well. We didn’t pitch well enough to win.”
Such things happen in the magnification of May.
A win Sunday would secure another series victory, but the Hawkeyes are going to have to put a winning streak together over the remaining two weeks to give themselves the best postseason chance.
“It’s just what we do every day,” Heller said. “It’s no different.
“We’ll show up tomorrow. We’ll be ready to play.”