After a three game excursion to Indiana, Iowa returns home for their second (and final) big homestand of the season, a nine-game stretch beginning this weekend and wrapping up with a mid-week game against Western Illinois on May 3. Iowa has been very good at home this year -- 10-2 -- and they'll need to maintain that scorching hot form to keep alive their hopes of making the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa's currently in 8th place in the Big Ten (only the top eight teams in the league make the conference tournament), but they have a very difficult closing schedule, which begins with this weekend's series against Michigan, ranked #18 in the country and second in the Big Ten (6-2).
Michigan is ranked #18 in the Baseball America Top 25, which makes them the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the country. Michigan has gone 6-2 in conference play so far, which includes three-game sweeps over Northwestern and Nebraska and a two-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota (the third game of that series was cancelled due to weather). Unsurprisingly for a team near the top of the standings, the Wolverines are strong in both pitching and hitting. Michigan ranks third in the Big Ten in hitting with a .304 team average, a .413 slugging percentage, and a .393 on-base percentage. Their hitters also don't strike out a lot (226 times, third-lowest in the Big Ten). Michigan also ranks third in the Big Ten in pitching with a .320 team ERA and they've held opposing batters to a .211 batting average (lowest in the Big Ten). They're second in the league in strikeouts (298), but also second in the league in walks (173).
Four Michigan batters are hitting better than .300, led by Cody Bruder, who's hitting .386 with a .464 slugging percentage, and a .431 on-base percentage. Jake Bivens is right behind Bruder with a .374 batting average, a .435 slugging percentage, and a .446 on-base percentage; he also leads the team in hits (55). Harrison Wenson is their leading power hitter with a .555 slugging percentage and five home runs and 10 doubles.
PITCHING MATCH-UPS AND INFO
Game One: #18 Michigan (26-9, 6-2) at Iowa (17-17, 6-6) -- Friday, April 22, 6 PM CT
Iowa: RHP C.J. Eldred (SO, 2-4, 2.70 ERA)
Michigan: LHP Brett Adcock (JR, 4-3, 2.53 ERA)
Eldred remains Iowa's best pitcher, though he struggled a bit at Indiana last weekend. Hopefully he returns to peak form tonight. Adcock ranks third on the team in ERA, but leads the team in strikeouts (52) and walks (38). Batters are not hitting him at all, though -- they have a .139 (!) average against him.
Game Two: #18 Michigan (26-9, 6-2) at Iowa (17-17, 6-6) -- Saturday, April 23, 3 PM CT
Iowa: RHP Ryan Erickson (JR, 1-0, 3.90 ERA)
Michigan: LHP Oliver Jaskie (SO, 5-2, 2.86 ERA)
Erickson is replacing Tyler Peyton in the rotation; he's been a solid middle relief option for Iowa this year, but this will be one of his first opportunities in a starting spot. Jaskie has the worst ERA among Michigan's regular starters... but that's not very damning because he still has an ERA of 2.86. Opposing hitters are batting just .205 against him.
Game Three: #18 Michigan (26-9, 6-2) at Iowa (17-17, 6-6) -- Sunday, April 24, 11 AM CT
Iowa: RHP Calvin Mathews (SR, 0-3, 6.92 ERA)
Michigan: LHP Evan Hill (SR, 5-1, 2.45 ERA)
Mathews is returning to the Iowa rotation after a short break. He's struggled mightily this year, but hopefully the break has allowed him to regain some of his sharpness. Meanwhile, Michigan is rolling out their third left-hander of the weekend, which is odd in itself -- not many teams have so many good lefties. Iowa has gone 3-8 against left-handed starters this year. Hill has the most wins (5) among Michigan pitchers and the second-best ERA (2.45) and a 2.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (44 strikeouts, 17 walks).
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