Two weeks ago Iowa headed home after losing two of three games at Minnesota with a record of 11-15 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten. Home cooking proved to be good for what ailed Iowa baseball, though, because they went 5-1 over the ensuing six-game homestand, taking two of three from Illinois and sweeping three non-conference games over Air Force and Milwaukee. Alas, all good homestands must come to an end and it's time for Iowa to head back out on the road for three games in Bloomington, Ind. against the Indiana Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are 18-13 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, tied for 4th in the conference.
That's a concern because Iowa's performances at home and on the road have been very, very different this year. Iowa is 10-2 at home and they've scored 112 runs in those 12 games, while giving up just 41 runs. Granted, that 112 run total is goosed by some huge blowouts like the 28-0 win over Northwestern College, the 22-2 win over Air Force a few nights ago, and a 12-3 win over Northern Illinois earlier in the season. But Iowa has scored seven or more runs in seven of their 12 home games this season. Meanwhile, Iowa has scored just 35 runs in their 12 road games, while giving up 59 runs. Certainly, the schedule matters here -- Iowa has played Minnesota, Dallas Baptist, and Missouri State on the road; those teams are a combined 66-26 this year and are all in the RPI Top 70. Meanwhile, they've played just one RPI Top 70 opponent at home (Maryland). Still -- Iowa's batters have been much more comfortable at home than they have on the road so far this year. Hopefully Iowa's hot bats make the trip to Bloomington this weekend.
Indiana has a nice schedule (18-13 overall, 4-2 in the Big Ten), but it might be a little flimsy. Three of their four Big Ten wins have come against Purdue, who's presently 0-9 in the Big Ten, 4-25 overall and 271st in RPI. In other words, Purdue is not good at all. In fact, Indiana is 161st in RPI, which is 11th in the Big Ten. RPI is certainly a flawed metric, but it does at least suggest that Indiana hasn't necessarily recorded too many impressive wins this season.
Indiana's hitting stats are eerily similar to Iowa's hitting stats this year:
Indiana: .266 BA, 282 hits, 51 2B, 8 3B, 23 HR, 160 RBI, 418 TB, .395 SLG%, .358 OBP%
Iowa: .269 BA, 281 hits, 53 2B, 6 3B, 21 HR, 169 RBI, 409 TB, .391 SLG%, .366 OBP%
Both rank in the middle of the Big Ten for most hitting stats. Three IU hitters are batting better than .300 this year, led by Logan Sowers with a .328 BA, .657 SLG%, and a .444 OBP%. He also has six home runs in 67 at-bats this year. Ryan Fineman (.313, .424, .384) and Craig Dedelow (.306, .460, .396) are Indiana's other top hitters.
Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten in pitching with a 2.86 ERA. They've struck out 250 batters this year, the fourth-highest total in the Big Ten. They've conceded just nine home runs, the lowest total in the league and they've held opposing batters to a .233 average, the third lowest total in the league. One interesting battle will be around walks -- Indiana has walked only 78 batters this year, the fewest in the Big Ten. Iowa has drawn 141 walks, the fourth-highest total in the league. Getting those extra baserunners has been key for Iowa's offense this year, so hopefully they're able to squeeze some walks out of the stingy IU pitchers.
PITCHING MATCH-UPS AND INFO
Game One: Indiana 7, Iowa 1
Iowa: RHP C.J. Elder (SO, 2-3, 2.52 ERA)
Indiana: LHP Kyle Hart (SR, 5-2, 3.02 ERA)
Elder hasn't had much luck getting Ws for Iowa lately, but he's produced several solid outings over the last month and been a key part of Iowa's resurgence. Hart has pitched the most innings for Indiana this year (50.2) and has the second-best ERA among Indiana's regular starters. Hart is second on the team in strikeouts (41) and he's held opponents to a .241 batting average, although control is a little bit of an issue -- he's hit six batters and had three balks.
Game Two: Indiana 8, Iowa 2
Iowa: RHP Tyler Peyton (SR, 1-4, 6.09 ERA)
Indiana: LHP Caleb Baragar (SR, 2-1, 1.51 ERA)
Peyton's overall stats are poor, but his performances had been trending in the right direction before a lackluster outing last weekend. Hopefully we get more "good Peyton" on the mound this weekend. Baragar has been Indiana's top pitcher this year, with stats that far outpace his modest 2-1 record (further proof that the win is a dumb stat). He's thrown 47.2 innings this year and has an excellent ERA (1.51) and he's held opposing batters to a lousy .160 average this year -- he's given up just 27 hits all season, in fact. He also leads Indiana in strikeouts (48). This looks like the toughest match-up for Iowa's batters.
Game Three: Iowa (16-17, 5-6) at Indiana (20-13, 6-2) -- Sunday, 2:05 PM CT
Iowa: RHP Nick Gallagher (SO, 4-2, 2.73 ERA)
Indiana: RHP Evan Bell (SR, 0-3, 3.59 ERA)
Gallagher replaced regular Sunday starter Calvin Mathews last weekend and did well, so hopefully he can keep that momentum going. Bell is the third of IU's regular starters, but he's not far behind Hart or Baragar. He's thrown 47.2 innings this year, with a 3.59 ERA and holding opponents to a .270 batting average. He's not as much of a strikeout pitcher as the other two (just 26).
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN/FOLLOW ALONG
All three games will be available on Hawkeye All-Access ($), and GameTracker. Friday and Saturday's games will also be available on BTN Plus ($), while Sunday's game will be available on BTN on TV. You can also follow @UIBaseball on Twitter for regular updates.
We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to post your own, too!