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Back to the ballpark.

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into the preview for this weekend's match-up with Southern Illinois, let's talk TV briefly. BTN announced their coverage plans for baseball and softball this year. Iowa baseball has two games on BTN/BTN2Go:

Sunday, April 3: Iowa at Minnesota (2 PM CT)
Sunday, April 17: Iowa at Indiana (2 PM CT)

Iowa softball has one game on BTN/BTN2Go:

Sundayk, May 1: Iowa at Illinois (12 PM CT)

Several more games may be on BTN Plus ($), but those are the only games slated to be on BTN proper.


Iowa's first home game of the season is still a few days away -- they host Northwestern College (NAIA) at 3 PM on Tuesday, March 8 -- but they are playing games in the midwest this weekend after beginning the season with three games in Texas and three games in Florida.  Iowa heads to Carbondale, Ill. to take on Southern Illinois in a three-game series this weekend.  The Salukis play at Robert "Itchy" Jones Stadium, which makes me fervently hope that their arch-rivals play at "Scratchy" Stadium.

The Salukis are 6-5 on the season and they've been hot lately -- they swept Western Illinois last weekend (and outscored them 22-1 over those three games) and edged out SEMO 6-5 on Wednesday.  SIU is batting .271 on the season, with a .399 slugging percentage and a .327 on-base percentage.  They've also been pretty dangerous on the base paths, swiping 12 bases (in 13 attempts) so far this season. Among their starters, Logan Blackfan is their top hitter -- he's hitting .387 at the plate with 5 doubles, a home run, and 10 RBI. Three other Saluki hitters (Jake Hand, Greg Lambert, and Connor Kopach) are also hitting above .300.


Game One: Southern Illinois 2, Iowa 1 (11 innings)

Iowa: RHP C.J. Eldred (SO, 1-0, 2.00 ERA)

SIU: LHP Joey Marciano (JR, 1-1, 2.61 ERA)

Iowa's normal Friday starter, Tyler Peyton, is sitting out his start this week due to "forearm tightness." In his absence, C.J. Eldred moves up from his traditional Saturday start to the Friday slot. Eldred has given up 3 runs (2 earned) and 6 hits in his 9 innings of work so far this season. Marciano has scattered 6 hits and 7 walks across 10.1 innings this year, but only given up 3 runs.

Game Two: Iowa (2-5) at Southern Illinois (7-5) -- Saturday, 2 PM CT

Iowa: LHP Ryan Erickson (JR, 0-0, 6.00 ERA)

SIU: RHP Chad Whitmer (JR, 1-0, 0.64 ERA)

With Eldred moving from Saturday to Friday, Ryan Erickson is moving from the bullpen to the starting spot for Saturday. Erickson is primarily a middle reliever for Iowa, though he could see action as a mid-week starter for Iowa once those games hit the schedule. He's struggled early in the season, giving up 9 runs (though only 4 earned) and 9 hits in 6 innings of work. Whitmer has been maybe SIU's best pitcher -- he's given up 8 hits (no walks) and just one run over 14.0 innings in his two appearances so far this year. He also leads SIU in strikeouts with 18.

Game Three: Iowa (2-5) at Southern Illinois (7-5) -- Sunday, 1 PM CT

Iowa: RHP Calvin Mathews (SR, 0-0, 2.25 ERA)

SIU: RHP Michael Baird (JR, 1-1, 1.64 ERA)

Mathews retains his traditional Sunday starting spot. He's looked OK so far this season, giving up 8 hits (and 3 walks) and 3 runs (2 earned) over 8.0 innings of work. Baird has been right behind Whitmer in terms of impressive performances so far -- he's spread four hits and one walk over 11.0 innings, giving up one run.  He's also struck out 14 batters so far this season.


All three games are available on Hawkeye All-Access ($), and GameTracker. You can also follow @UIBaseball on Twitter for regular updates.

A sweep of the Salukis would get Iowa above .500 for the first time this season (5-4), but even taking two of three and winning the series would be a pretty satisfying result for the Hawks at this stage. But SIU appears to have some pretty solid pitchers in Whitmer and Baird, as well as some dangerous hitters, so this could be a tricky series for the Hawkeyes.

We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to post your own, too!