After a dominating performance yesterday, Iowa returns to action this evening to try to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Standing in their way? The hottest team in the Big Ten, Ohio State.
WHO: #4 seed Ohio State Buckeyes (39-17 overall, 15-9 Big Ten)
WHAT: Second round of Big Ten Tournament
WHERE: TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, NE)
WHEN: 1 PM CT (Friday, May 27)
TV: BTN (announcers: Kevin Kugler, Scott Pose, Danan Hughes)
RADIO: AM-800 KXIC (free), Hawkeye All-Access ($), TuneIn Radio*
*I'm not sure if the game will be on TuneIn Radio or not, but it's worth a shot.
Here's an updated look at Iowa's half of the bracket:
And the other half of the bracket, in case you were curious:
Of course, this bracket is also slightly out of date because:
Nebraska is the first team eliminated from the @B1Gbaseball tourney. 7 remain.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) May 26, 2016
OHIO STATE NOTES
Ohio State baseball has basically been the physical incarnation of the fire emoji since the beginning of May -- Ohio State is 12-3 in the month of May and they're 9-1 in their last ten games, only dropping a 4-3 nailbiter to Minnesota last week. Their last loss before this current 10-game hot streak is relevant to our interests, though: Iowa dropped them 12-0 in a game pitched by tonight's starter, Tyler Peyton. So that gives us some good vibes for the game.
So what makes Ohio State so dang good? Their pitching, mostly. The Buckeyes have the second-best team ERA in the Big Ten (3.01) and they've been even better in Big Ten-only games, posting a 2.63 ERA. In fact, against fellow Big Ten teams, they've posted two shutouts (both against Iowa), struck out 175 batters (5th most in the Big Ten), walked just 44 (2nd fewest in the Big Ten), and held opposing batters to a .241 average, the second-lowest in the Big Ten.
Ohio State's bats have struggled against Big Ten pitchers, though -- they're hitting just .243 in league action, fourth-worst in the league, although their slugging percentage is better (.370, fourth-best). Only two OSU batters are hitting over .300, Nick Sergakis (.358) and Ronnie Dawson (.309), although they have three guys with good pop: Sergakis has 10 home runs, Dawson has 12, and Jacob Bosiokovic has 11; all three guys also have slugging percentages north of .500. Sergakis also draws more walks (33) than he strikes out (24) and gets on base in almost half of his plate appearances (he has an OBP of .477). He's a scary hitter. Dawson and Bosiokoic can change a game with one pitch (which is a little concerning when Peyton has given up a team-high six home runs this year).
Iowa: RHP Tyler Peyton (SR, 4-5, 4.28 ERA)
That said, the Peyton that we've seen lately has been light years from the pitcher that was getting pounded by opposing hitters and giving up all those home runs and extra-base hits. He's 3.0 with a 0.00 ERA in his last three starts -- that's pretty good. Like, really, really good. He's given up just hits in his current 23-inning scoreless stretch. If OSU as a whole isn't the physical incarnation of the fire emoji, then Peyton is. We couldn't ask for a better pitcher to put on the mound tonight. Peyton also had success against OSU earlier this year, pitching seven shutout innings against them and giving up just two hits.
Ohio State: LHP John Havird (SR, 6-3, 3.32 ERA)
Coincidentally, Havird was OSU's pitcher in that same game that Iowa-OSU game that Peyton pitched in... and he was pretty much the exact opposite of Peyton. He lasted 5.2 innings, but gave up 10 hits and five earned runs while striking out three. He gave up three runs in the first and two more in the fifth. Red-hot Iowa hitters Tyler Peyton and Joel Booker each picked up two hits against Havird last time, as did Mason McCoy. That said, Havird has generally been strong for OSU this year -- he's 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 84 innings pitched, striking out 56 (against just 14 walks), and holding opponents to a .257 batting average. We'll be hoping for more of the Havird we saw the last time he faced Iowa and less of the Havird who pitched the rest of the season.
And of course the last time Iowa and Ohio State played in the Big Ten Tournament (last season), the ending was oh-so-magical for the Hawkeyes:
It doesn't get much better than a walk-off. Let's keep the good vibes flowing for Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.
This is both the preview for tonight's game and the game thread, so feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.