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Iowa takes a break from Big Ten play, but still can't find the winning formula at home.

UI Baseball

Home field had been a saving grace for Iowa baseball this season -- prior to this recent eight-game homestand, Iowa had gone 10-2 in the friendly confines of Duane Banks Field. Unfortunately, that home field advantage has diminished over the course of this current stretch of home games -- after losing two of three to Kansas State (their second straight home series loss) over the weekend Iowa is just 3-4 in this homestand and 13-6 overall at home. The weather again reared its ugly head and impacted the schedule as Saturday's game was postponed and Iowa played a double-header with Kansas State on Sunday.  Iowa dropped the series opener on Friday and split the double-header yesterday, dropping their overall record to 20-21.

The series result was disappointing, but the good news is that it has little to not impact on Iowa's ability to make the Big Ten Tournament since the games were not against Big Ten opponents.  The losses didn't impact Iowa in the RPI -- they were #94 last week and this week they're... #94 again.  Iowa is not getting an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament -- and that was the case before last weekend, too. The Hawkeyes' path to a return trip to the NCAA Tournament is very clear.  They need to sappointing

a) make the Big Ten Tournament
b) win the Big Ten Tournament

That's it. And in that context, here's the current Big Ten standings:

Big Ten standings 5.2

Iowa was 9th last week. This week they are... tied for 9th.

The big winners over the weekend were Nebraska, Maryland, and Ohio State.

* Nebraska took 2 of 3 at Rutgers
* Maryland took 2 of 3 at home vs Penn State
* Ohio State swept all three games from stupid, shitty Purdue at Purdue

The big losers were Penn State, Illinois, and Rutgers.

* Penn State dropped 2 of 3 at Maryland
* Illinois lost 2 of 3 at home against Minnesota, B1G best team
* Rutgers lost 2 of 3 at home against Nebraska

Game One: Kansas State 3, Iowa 2

Iowa starting pitcher C.J. Eldred produced yet another pretty strong effort in a losing effort -- 6 IP, 8 hits, 2 runs (one earned), 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts. That wasn't a stellar outing, but it could have been good enough to get a win -- if the Iowa offense had bothered to show up.  Alas, they mustered two runs on eight hits (and three walks), stranding eight men on base. To be fair, while Iowa's offense may not have shown up as a team, Tyler Peyton very much showed up -- he went 4/5 with a double and a triple and scored one of Iowa's two runs. Daniel Aaron Moriel went 1/4 but added a home run and also managed to drive in both of Iowa's runs.

Game Two: Iowa 2, Kansas State 1

Friday's loss ran Iowa's losing streak against Kansas State to seven in a row, but that ugly streak finally ended on Sunday afternoon as Iowa edged K-State 2-1 in the first game of the doubleheader. Ryan Erickson got the start and was shaky in his two innings -- he gave up two hits and walked three in his three innings of work (52 pitches), giving up one run. Nick Gallagher came on to replace him in the third inning -- and put the game on lockdown.  His line? 7 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts.  Yeah, that'll do nicely.

Iowa's bats weren't a whole lot more lively than they were in game one, but this time the two runs they scored were enough to eke out the win. Iowa's hitters racked up seven hits, led by Joel Booker, who went 2/4 with a solo home run that proved to be the game-winner. Peyton continued his hot weekend by knocking in the other Iowa run on the day, while Nick Roscetti, Daniel Aaron Moriel, Jimmy Frankos, and Luke Farley added the other hits for Iowa.

Game Three: Kansas State 4, Iowa 2

Unfortunately, K-State took the rubber match in the series in the second half of the doubleheader on Sunday, dropping a close game, 4-2. Iowa fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, leveled things at 1-1 in the third inning, then went down again 2-1 in the fourth inning. After extending their lead to 3-1 in the top of the sixth, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh.  They got no closer, though, and K-State added an insurance run in the eighth inning.

Calvin Mathews got the start for Iowa and had a poor line, although not as poor as some of his recent outings: 3 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout. Zach Daniels, Shane Ritter, Tyler Peyton, and Josh Martsching finished out the remaining six innings for Iowa, scattering six hits but holding the Wildcats to two runs. Iowa's hitters went for eight hits, with Peyton, Roscetti, and Moriel all lacing two hits apiece. Peyton and Roscetti each hit doubles, while Roscetti also knocked in both of Iowa's runs.

* * *

In other Iowa baseball news, the Hawkeyes added commitments from two more players as part of their 2016 recruiting class, JUCO pitching prospect Derek Lieurance and catcher Jack Kinzer.  Lieurance has certainly impressed at North Iowa Area Community College this year:

Lieurance, a 6-foot, 180 pound right-handed pitcher from Cascade, Iowa, is 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) as a freshman at North Iowa Area Community College. He has allowed 12 runs (nine earned) in 38 2/3 innings and has 55 strikeouts to 19 walks. He averages 12.80 strikeouts per nine innings.

Starting pitching is definitely an area where Iowa needs improvement, so hopefully Lieurance will provide a useful option for the rotation next season.  Kinzer is a big-hitting catching prospect from across the border in Wisconsin.

Kinzer, a 6-1, 195 pound catcher from Port Washington, Wisconsin, was rated as the No. 2 catcher in Wisconsin by Prep Baseball Report. He hit .389 with eight home runs as a junior at Port Washington High School.

Kinzer is a top 500 recruit by Perfect Game and was a 2016 honorable mention All-American by Rawlings/Perfect Game. He was also a 2016 second-team All-Central Region selection by Rawlings and was a Prep Baseball Report Futures Games invitee in 2014.

Iowa loses their top two regular catchers from this past season (Jimmy Frankos and Daniel Aaron Moriel), so there will be plenty of opportunity behind the plate next year.  If Kinzer's bat can make the transition to the Division I level, too, he could provide some much-needed pop for the Iowa offense.

NEXT: Iowa wraps up their homestand with another non-conference game, hosting Western Illinois (13-26) on Tuesday (6:30 PM CT) before heading to Columbus, OH for a huge series with Ohio State. It's going to be very tough for Iowa to finish Top 8 in the Big Ten (and make the Big Ten Tournament) without winning two of three from the Buckeyes this weekend.