By John Bohnenkamp
IOWA CITY — Rick Heller pushed all of the right bullpen buttons in the first game.
In the second game, the Iowa baseball coach had to push just about every button he had available, and it still wasn’t enough to get a sweep.
Heller used 10 pitchers in the second game, including one for the second time in Saturday’s doubleheader, but Illinois was able to win, 7-5.
The Hawkeyes took the first game 4-2 behind the starting pitching of Dylan Nedved and the relief work of Connor Schultz and Ben Beutel.
But it was how Iowa let the second game get away that bothered Heller.
The Hawkeyes led 4-1 going into the top of the seventh after starting pitcher Adam Mazur allowed just three hits and struck out nine over the first six innings. But Mazur was at 94 pitches after the sixth, so Heller went to the bullpen.
Duncan Davitt came in to start the seventh and walked the first two hitters he faced. Jared Simpson relieved Davitt and got a grounder back to him that could have led to a double play, but Simpson threw the ball into center field, allowing one run to score. Will Christopherson entered the game and surrendered a game-tying double to Branden Comia.
“At the end of the day, when you have a situation like that, when you have a four-run lead or a three-run lead late in the game, you have to finish it off, and we didn’t do that,” Heller said.
The Hawkeyes (16-11, 3-2 Big Ten) got the lead back in the bottom of the inning on Peyton Williams’ solo home run to right field.
Heller then turned to Beutel, who got the save in the first game. Beutel, who pitched the ninth inning in the first game, needed to get through the eighth and the ninth to finish off the second game, but he could only get two outs in the ninth before giving up a run-scoring single to Jacob Campbell that tied the game at 5.
“We had two strikes on the guy, a strike from ending the game, (Beutel) missed his location, and gave up a game-tying hit,” Heller said.
Heller used four more pitchers after that before Illinois (14-14, 6-2) scored two runs in the top of the 13th.
Benjamin DeTaeye (0-1), who struck out four in the 11th and 12th innings, walked Cal Hejza to start the 13th. Hejza moved up to second on a wild pitch, but DeTaeye struck out the next two hitters before Heller intentionally walked Justin Janas. Heller brought in Marcus Morgan, who walked Campbell to load the bases before hitting Cam McDonald with an 0-2 breaking ball, forcing in the go-ahead run. An infield single by Kellen Sarver added another run.
Heller knew the Hawkeyes had squandered some early chances. They scored two runs in the sixth inning for a 4-1 lead and had the bases loaded, but three strikeouts ended any chance at further damage.
“That was really big in that game, when we could have broken it open,” Heller said.
The Hawkeyes had two runners on in the ninth and didn’t score, then didn’t get another baserunner the rest of the game.
“I think guys were trying to do it all themselves,” Heller said. “And when you see that, you see the result — a lot of chases. The last seven innings of that game, there was so much chasing going on out of the strike zone — trying to ambush, things we generally don’t do, that gets us into a rut.”
The Hawkeyes got the key hits in the first game, scoring a run in the third, two in the fourth, and one in the seventh.
Nedved had baserunners in the five innings he pitched, but only gave up one run.
“He wasn’t sharp, but he competed and did a great job,” Heller said. “You guys watched it, and I think all of us were thinking, to get out of there with all of the messes he put himself into with only (giving up) one run, that was pretty impressive. He fought through it, he buckled down when he needed to, and he toughed it out.”
Schultz followed with three scoreless innings before he gave up a single and a walk to start the ninth. Beutel came in and gave up a sacrifice fly to Ryan Hampe, but struck out the last two hitters to finish the game.
The two teams conclude the series with a 2:05 p.m. game on Sunday.
“I don’t think today was a step backward,” Heller said. “Just try not to let it get you down. We just have to bounce back tomorrow and have a good effort.”
Photo: Iowa reliever Benjamin DeTaeye struck out six in in 2 1/3 innings in Saturday’s second game against Illinois. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)