It all comes down to this: Iowa versus Penn State in the final series of the Big Ten regular season for both teams. The winner of the series is almost certainly in next week's Big Ten Tournament, while the loser is almost certainly out. We broke down the race for the final two spots in the Big Ten Tournament earlier in the week, so let's get down to the match-up itself. Iowa hasn't fared well away from home this year -- just 5-14 -- but Penn State isn't as fearsome as many of the teams that Iowa has faced on the road this year, either.
Weather has impacted a tremendous number of Iowa's games this year, so perhaps it's fitting that it's also throwing a wrench into the schedule for this weekend's series, too. Saturday's scheduled game has been pre-emptively postponed, leading to a doubleheader tomorrow starting at 1 PM CT.
PENN STATE TIDBITS
Penn State doesn't hit that well -- they're batting .262, 9th best in the Big Ten. Their slugging percentage isn't any better -- .345, 10th best in the Big Ten. They have just 16 home runs, the lowest total in the league, and 68 doubles, the second lowest total in the league. Their on-base percentage is .348, 10th best in the Big Ten. Iowa, for the record, ranks well ahead of Penn State in all of those categories. Penn State is better at pitching, but they're not stellar there, either. They have a team ERA of 3.76, 7th in the Big Ten. They don't strike many batters out -- 319, 11th in the Big Ten -- and walk a lot of batters -- 190, 5th most in the Big Ten. Opponents are also hitting .262 against them, the fourth highest average in the league.
Four PSU batters are hitting .300 or better, led by Jim Haley at .330, with a .447 slugging percentage and a .391 OBP. Greg Guers is hitting .310 with a .495 slugging percentage and a team-high six home runs and a .370 OBP. Nick Riotto is hitting .325 with a .410 slugging percentage and a .423 OBP and Tyler Kendall is hitting .310 with a .364 slugging percentage and a .362 OBP. However, five of their other regular starters are hitting .240 or worse.
PITCHING MATCH-UPS AND INFO
Game One: Iowa at Penn State -- Thursday, May 19, 5:30 PM CT
Iowa: RHP C.J. Eldred (SO, 2-8, 3.67 ERA)
Penn State: RHP Nick Hedge (SR, 5-2, 2.75 ERA)
Eldred has been flagging down the stretch for Iowa, but Iowa really needs him to regain some of his earlier form so that Iowa can have their best possible chance to grab a win tonight. Hedge has been Penn State's top pitcher this year, posting a team-best 2.75 ERA and holding opponents to a .263 batting average.
Game Two: Iowa at Penn State -- Friday, May 20, 1 PM CT
Iowa: RHP Tyler Peyton (SR, 3-5, 5.05 ERA)
Penn State: RHP Sal Biasi (SO, 5-5, 3.90 ERA)
Peyton has regained his 2015 form over the last two appearances, which has been outstanding to see -- hopefully he has at least one more great outing in him. Biasi has the third-best ERA among PSU's regular starters (3.90 ERA) and he's also held opponents to a measly .226 batting average. He also has a team-high 60 strikeouts.
Game Three: Iowa at Penn State -- Friday, May 20, shortly after Game Two
Iowa: RHP Calvin Mathews (SR, 0-4, 6.29 ERA)
Penn State: RHP Justin Hagenman (FR, 6-3, 3.50 ERA)
Mathews' struggles have been documented, but he gave Iowa a solid (albeit brief) outing last Sunday, and hopefully he can do the same in perhaps his final appearance for Iowa. Hagenman, a freshman, has the second-lowest ERA among PSU starters (3.50) and has pitched the most innings of any PSU starter (79.2). He doesn't strike out that many opponents, though (37 in 79.2 innings), and opponents are hitting .291 against him.
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN/FOLLOW ALONG
All three games will have radio broadcasts on Hawkeye All-Access ($); all games will also be available via GameTracker. You can also follow @UIBaseball on Twitter for regular updates. All three games will also have a radio broadcast on AM-800 KXIC.
We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to post your own, too!