Senior Nick Hibbing pitched gems in two games of the NCAA regional on Sunday after throwing an equally impressive outing on Friday.
By Ian Murphy
SPRINGFIELD, MO— Iowa’s road to Omaha ended Sunday night, but the only Hawkeye named to the all-regional team and the most outstanding player of the regional did not let them go down without a fight.
Despite a herculean effort from senior reliever Nick Hibbing, who pitched multiple inning stretches of both Iowa’s game against Oregon and the second game of the day against Missouri State, the Hawkeyes fell in the second game 3-2 at the hands of the Bears to end their season.
Heller’s star pitcher throughout the weekend gave the head coach more than one reason to be proud Sunday.
Hibbing pitched 3.0 innings in the game against Oregon, shutting down the Ducks with three innings of no hit baseball. He entered with the bases loaded and no outs, striking out one batter and getting the next to hit into a double play to end the threat.
The star threw 20 pitches in the Oregon game during his three innings.
With junior Connor Grant in trouble in the first inning of the second game against Missouri State, Hibbing called his own number, cornering his head coach and asking to go back in the game.
“He kind of corralled me in between games and he had a hot pack keeping his arm warm, and he said, ‘hey I want to go, I want to be the first guy out of the pen,” Heller said. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to be in the first inning.
“He’s an absolute warrior right now. He’s turned an absolute 180 since he’s been in Iowa City.”
It wasn’t the first time Hibbing pulled double duty this season, as the senior pitched twice in a double header against Nebraska earlier this season. But the Huskers doubleheader did not have the same weight as the doubleheader that saw the Hawkeyes fighting for their postseason lives.
Repeatedly this season, and Sunday, where he threw a total of 8.2 innings and 117 pitches, allowing just two hits and walking his first batter since February 13th, the Hawkeyes called Hibbings number and he delivered.
His Hawkeye career culminated with Sunday’s second outing, which featured 97 of those 117 pitches over the course of 5.2 innings, along with eight strikeouts.
In the sixth, an inning which perfectly encaptured the resiliency Hibbing showed all season, he walked two batters with two outs, balked to move them into scoring position, and then with a crowd of 5656 on its feet, struck out the next batter to end the inning.
“I fed off the crowd’s energy. I like doing that,” Hibbing said. “I tried to give our team the best chance to win, it was my job to go do that.”
Sunday’s exhibition did not go unnoticed by teammates. Junior Calvin Matthews, who started the Oregon game with a stellar performance of his own, said he knew Hibbing would get it done.
“We knew when he got that strike out he could get a double play,” Matthews said.
Senior Kris Goodman, who appeared emotional at the press conference, called what Hibbing did outstanding.
“He wears his emotions on his sleeve,” Goodman said. “He’s a guy I always call Mr. Reliable, and there’s not another guy I want out there on the mound.”
There wasn’t another guy Heller wanted on the mound either, as Hibbing was far and away the best Hawkeye player on the field throughout the tournament.
But in Hibbing’s own words, the effort was all for the other eight men on the diamond with him.
“It’s my senior year, It’s my last shot at something, at a championship,” Hibbing said. “I tried to do everything I could for the team and block everything out except for each individual pitch.”