Rivalry week can be fierce and intense, but along with that comes nerves. The intensity got to the ISU Baseball Club during its four-game set against Iowa this past weekend.
The series was also the seniors' last crack at the Hawkeyes. Two wins against Iowa would put the Cyclones in the driver's seat, competing for a shot at the Mid-America North Conference title.
Unfortunately, the Cyclones couldn’t obtain those two wins and ultimately lost their hopes for a postseason bid. They lost three of four, which dropped them to 5-7 in conference play and 9-12 overall.
“Our defense struggled and we costly errors at key points in the games,” said junior Matt Odland, club president and head coach. “Our errors were on hard hit balls, but we still should have made some of those plays.”
For the Cyclones, it was a common theme for the three games — they fell down early and often. In game one, the club trailed 3-0 before battling back to tie the game. It trailed 3-0 again in game two. In game three, the Cyclones trailed 4-1 after only one inning.
Despite the early deficits, they battled back in every game and got within a run or tied it. Odland credited good pitching as the reason they stayed in games despite experiencing defensive struggles.
During a weekend of inconsistent play, one thing remained consistent: the hype for next season's team. Only three seniors were recognized on senior weekend, and Quin Mann missed the entire season after having shoulder surgery.
“Next year they have a chance to be really good because the core of the team is staying,” said senior Tanner Judd. “I have no doubt that guys can step up for the departing seniors.”
Filling Judd’s shoes once he leaves will be no easy task, however. In his senior campaign, Judd compiled a .424 batting average and swiped nine bases, which ranks him in the top-20 nationally for stolen bases. If the club succeeds next year with a young core of players returning, it will be because the quick-footed outfielder was able to demonstrate a rugged work ethic.
The club will also lose Chad Allman, who was one of the club's best pitchers. Allmann has a 3-1 record and 3.44 ERA, which is ranked second on the team. He has also recorded 27 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched.
“Seeing where we ended this season makes me want to start planning for next season,” Odland said. “We have a lot of talent returning.”
Before Odland can start planning for the future, the club will battle Northern Iowa in the team's last four games of the season. With the team essentially eliminated from postseason play, it will play care-free baseball.
Although it was a rebuilding year, the club still managed to compete for a conference title for a majority of the season. Odland is excited to see what kind of team shows up when it plays with nothing on the line against Northern Iowa.
“We have been put into a really good spot heading into next season,” said Kellen Yoder, a senior who will return for one more season. “We are poised to take the next step and win conference and get back to the World Series.”