IOWA BASEBALL: SNOWBIRD CLASSIC PART DEUX

The Hawkeye baseball team returns to action this weekend, traveling to Port Charlotte, Florida for four games in the Snowbird Classic. The Hawkeyes were swept by Kansas State last weekend after starting the season 9-1. An earlier Iowa trip to the Snowbird Classic in February resulted in four of Iowa's nine wins. Here's to hoping the Sunshine State gets the Hawks back on track.

Kansas State Series Recap

To catch everyone up, I'll recap the K-State series, but since the Hawkeyes got swept and it was almost a week ago, I intend to keep it to one sentence per game. Here goes: In game one, three first-inning KSU runs (two forced in on free passes) doomed Iowa, as the Hawkeyes managed only nine baserunners and two sixth-inning runs in a 3-2 loss. The Hawkeyes never led in game two either, again scoring only two sixth-inning runs and mustering only seven singles in a 5-2 loss. The Hawkeye bats came alive in game three, staking Iowa to a 7-2 lead after five-and-a-half innings, but KSU poured on the squiggly numbers late, nabbing ten runs in its last three at-bats and sending Iowa to a 12-8 loss.

Return to Port Charlotte

Iowa's rare 9-1 start was fueled by a 4-0 trip to the Snowbird Classic from February 21 to 23. In those four games, the Hawkeyes outscored their opposition (MS Valley State, St. Bonaventure, Ball State, and Nebraska-Omaha) by a total of 34 to 11. On this trip, Iowa faces Georgetown twice (2:00 PM Saturday and 12:00 PM Sunday), matching up with St. Joseph's between the two games with the Hoyas (9:00 AM Sunday; aka Earlybird Classic). The Hawkeyes close the trip with a 10:00 AM Monday tilt with Division III Otterbein University.

The Tale of the Tape

IOWA


GTOWN


SJU


OTT


9-4

W-L


6-8

6-5

5-1

7.8

Runs/Gm


4.8

4.5

8.7

4.54

ERA


5.25

5.00

5.88

.814

OPS


.677

.686

.972

.965

Fielding %


.949

.955

.962

A look at the raw stats suggests Iowa is more well-rounded than their opponents in Snowbird: The Empire Strikes Back. Iowa's offensive numbers took a slight hit at KSU, but they still blow away Georgetown's and St. Joe's. Otterbein has posted staggering offensive numbers, but their three opponents thus far: Elmhurst, Defiance College, and Hiram College. Georgetown's and St. Joseph's pitching and defensive figures are marginally worse than Iowa's, and their competition has been comparable to Iowa's; a 16-2 St. Joseph's loss to No. 21 Kentucky (S-E-C!) is the only ranked competition seen by either squad, and they almost exclusively have otherwise played schools of the northern or mid-major persuasion. Otterbein's pitching has been atrocious, even against its DIII schedule. Another 4-0 trip is not at all unattainable for Iowa.

Pitching Probables

Game 1: Calvin Mathews (IOWA), 1-1, 2.86 ERA vs. Will Brown (GTOWN), 0-2, 8.47 ERA

Game 2: Andrew Hedrick (IOWA), 2-1, 3.54 ERA vs. Jordan Carter (SJU), 2-1, 4.41 ERA

Game 3: Tyler Peyton (IOWA), 2-0, 4.32 ERA vs. David Ellingson (GTOWN), 1-0, 1.35 ERA

Game 4: Sasha Kuebel (IOWA), 1-0, 9.24 ERA vs. Nick Muse (OTT), 0-0, 13.50 ERA

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a little guesswork here, especially when projecting Iowa's opponents' starters. The Hoyas and the Hawks beat the Hawkeyes down to Port Charlotte by a couple of days and have been spending some of their top-of-the-rotation starters against each other the last few days (they've split a pair of one-run games). The most eye-popping figure is Ellingson's 1.35 ERA, but he's done that predominantly in relief. He gave up one earned run in six innings in his only start of the year, a 9-4 Georgetown win over South Dakota State this Tuesday. Another guy to be wary of is Carter of St. Joseph's. Six of his eight earned runs allowed for the year came in the Hawks' aforementioned season-opening bloodletting at the hands of Kentucky. He has a 1.50 ERA since.

Iowa's starters had some big-inning issues at KSU, but they still have steady numbers. The Hawkeyes will likely just work from the top of their rotation, starting with Mathews, coming in on five days' rest as a team. Kuebel was bumped from the rotation at KSU, but pitched one-and-a-third scoreless innings of relief in game one of that series, somehow working around three hits, a walk, and a hit batsman in that frame-plus. He is likely to get the bonus start for Iowa in the fourth game.

Offensive Outlook

It's almost not worth getting too lost in lineups (especially opponents') in a quasi-round robin like this, assuming each player will only get about three to five plate appearances (six to ten for the Georgetown guys) and then never encounter the Hawkeyes again. That said, I'll pick one standout on each team.

The obvious man for Georgetown is first baseman Steve Anderson. He leads the Hoyas in batting average (.354), home runs (1...boom), RBI (9), and OPS (.884). Infielder Tommy Cunningham provides the pop for St. Joe's, with a team-high four extra-base hits (3 2B, 1 HR), 11 RBI, and .859 OPS, to go with a .333 batting average, which is good for second on the team. The Cardinals (should be called the Otters, right?) are led by shortstop Sean Kettering, who is raking at a .455 clip, with 2 HR and 7 RBI in Otterbein's six games, and posting an absurd 1.404 OPS. Hopefully some D-1 pitching will bring Kettering's numbers down to Earth.

Iowa remains led by its middle infield. Shortstop Jake Yacinich leads Iowa with a .417 batting average, and maintains an OPS of .979 despite having only two extra-base hits. Yacinich's .500 OBP and 10 steals in 11 attempts provide quite the spark. Second baseman Jake Mangler leads Iowa with 14 RBI. Iowa's lineup is not without balance; no Hawkeye starter has fewer than 6 RBI, that figure belonging to Iowa's nine-hitter, third baseman Nick Day, who has a .357 batting average.

Weather Report/Wrapping Up

It's looking all sunny Saturday and Sunday in Port Charlotte, with highs in the low 80s. There's a 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Monday, so the epic showdown with the Otters...er...Cardinals may encounter some issues. If you really want more, I got this fine info from Intellicast.com--Port Charlotte, FL.

This trip should be a good opportunity for Iowa to get back on track after the K-State sweep. Iowa has by far the best hitting lineup of the D-1 teams attending, and Otterbein's pitching seems to be a Hawkeye mash-fest waiting to happen. Let's get some runs!

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