Baseball squad starts off year on the right foot with wins

Joe Randleman

The ISU baseball team opened the 2000 season showing plenty of offensive spark as the Cyclones erupted for 39 runs in taking two out of three games from Air Force last weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I thought we played very well offensively,” Cyclone head coach Lyle Smith said. “I would have liked to come back 3-0, [but] that was the best Air Force team I’ve seen in four years, and they’re going to surprise some people.”

Iowa State started off the slugfest series by sweeping a Saturday double header from the Falcons by scores of 15-13 and 11-10. The Cyclones were aided by strong offensive performances from third baseman Robert Conway, catcher Ryan Wickham and outfielders Bobby Mestas, Aaron Runk and Ben Van Iderstine.

In the opening contest Iowa State erupted for an eight-run second inning to overcome an early 4-0 deficit. However, Air Force struck right back for three runs in their half of the inning to pull within 8-7, and in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Cyclones leading 11-8, the Falcons received a three-run homer from Chris Humphrey to knot the score up at 11-11.

But Iowa State responded in the top of the sixth when Conway stepped up to the plate with two outs and two runners on base.

“I came up hoping to just extend the inning and get the next guy to the plate,” Conway said. “I got down in the count, and he threw me a curve ball. I was expecting the curve and just waited on it and hit it over the right-center field fence.”

That forged the Cyclones ahead 14-11, and they held on for the victory. Mestas paced the Cyclones by going 4-for-5 with four RBI, while Runk and designated hitter Jade O’Brien each smashed a pair of doubles. Van Iderstine added a two-run homer.

Josh Twedt picked up the victory on the mound, and Charly Bigwood recorded the save.

In the night cap Iowa State rallied to top the Falcons thanks to a clutch ninth inning single by Runk. The pre-season All-American stepped up to the plate, having gone hitless in his previous five at bats, with the Cyclones trailing 10-8, the bases loaded and no outs.

“I felt like I hit the ball really well my first five at bats, but they all seemed to be line drives right at someone,” Runk said. “You have those days, but my last at bat all I was thinking about was we’re down by two runs with runners on and I needed to come through for the team.”

Runk did exactly that, smacking a two-run single to tie the score at 10-10 and extend his hitting streak to 16 games. It appeared Air Force would prevent Iowa State from taking the lead later in the inning when Spencer Allen and Runk were gunned down at the plate, but Cyclone short stop Steve Goldberg finally put the Clones on top by scoring from third on a Falcon passed ball.

Bigwood secured the win by shutting out Air Force in the bottom half of the inning to record his second straight save. Mark Hanrahan relieved ISU starter Brian Curtin in the fifth inning and tossed 3 2/3 effective innings to record his first victory as a Cyclone.

Sunday’s series final turned out to be another offensive barn burner. This time the Falcons came out on top, 15-13.

Iowa State fell behind 7-1 early but managed a furious comeback that was capped by a Conway solo blast in the seventh inning to put Iowa State on top, 10-9. But Air Force scored six runs in their half of the inning and withstood a three-run Cyclone eighth inning to hold on for the victory.

Conway starred offensively once again for Iowa State, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a home run. For the series he was 8-for-15 for a .571 average, scored eight runs, drove in 10 and smacked two home runs while playing errorless third base. This remarkable performance earned him Big 12 player of the week honors.

“It was a good way to start off my baseball career here,” Conway said. “I wasn’t expecting that good of a weekend, but things started to happen offensively, and I got a chance to make some big plays defensively.”

Runk, Allen and Jason McNertney all added three hits apiece for Iowa State in a losing effort.

Though the Cyclones were able to make noise offensively against the Falcons, the pitching staff didn’t fare so well. Iowa State surrendered a total of 38 runs on 45 hits for the series, and Smith said his starters must do a better job locating their pitches for the Cyclones to be successful.

“You’d hope your pitching would be better than your offense at this point, and it was not this weekend,” Smith said “It was an offensive environment and I was pleased with our middle people, [but] we’ve got to do a much better job sustaining the strike zone with our starting pitchers.”