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Iowa Baseball Heads to Florida to Kick off 2018 Season


Iowa baseball

The Iowa baseball team, your reigning Big Ten Tournament Champions, starts off its campaign to get to Omaha today in a trip down to Kissimmee, Fla., where the Hawkeyes take on Toledo, Oakland and Old Dominion on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

We’ve spent the last couple days previewing the Iowa baseball team. You can find those pieces linked below:

Iowa baseball preview: the schedule

Iowa baseball preview: the infield

Iowa baseball preview: the pitchers

Iowa baseball preview: the outfield

Iowa starts play in the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series against two of the weaker teams it’ll face all season in Toledo and Oakland, but wraps up with a really solid Old Dominion team that won 37 games a year ago.

Iowa vs. Toledo

Friday, Feb. 16, 5:30 PM CT

Nick Allgeyer is taking the mound Friday against Toldeo, which went 17-41 a year ago. He’ll face LHP Michael Jacob, who threw just 26.1 innings for the Rockets a last year as their closer. He posted a 4.01 ERA with six saves, but it appears his start against Iowa will be the first of his career. This will be Allgeyer’s first appearance since 2016, missing all of last year following Tommy John surgery.

While Toledo may not have the power on the mound, its bats could set the scoring pace. 93 percent of Toledo’s runs from 2017 were driven in by players returning in 2018. Last year the Rockets hit 39 home runs, 19 triples, and 101 doubles — all highs since 2010 for the program.

Iowa vs. Oakland

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2 PM CT

Oakland had a similar 2017 record as Toledo, going 17-40 in the Horizon league (Oakland University is in Rochester, Mich., people forget that.) The Grizzlies’ 2017 schedule boasts an RPI of 243, which is only the fifth-worst on Iowa’s non-con schedule.

We’ll see Cole McDonald on the mound for Iowa. After a strong 2016 campaign, he went 2-4 last year, including a start against Minnesota in the second semifinal game of the Big Ten Tournament. He didn’t have the best outing in that one, allowing 5 hits and 4 runs in just 2 innings, but he did throw a no-hitter against the Czech Republic during the World University Games.

Oakland hasn’t decided who it will trot out as of this writing. According to Hawkeye Sports it’s between LHP P.J. Piesko or RHP Nick Parr. Piesko was 1-4 with a 10.61 ERA last season in 18 appearances, while Parr was 4-3 with a 12.60 ERA in 15 appearances, including five starts. Not great.

Oakland hasn’t had a winning season since 1997.

Iowa vs. Old Dominion

Sunday, Feb. 18, 10 AM CT

Old Dominion, however, should provide a really good test for this Iowa team on Sunday. The Monarchs went 37-21 a year ago, failing to make the postseason as an at-large bid despite its second-place finish in Conference USA. ODU is projected to finish fourth in the conference this year, and has a lot of returning firepower in the infield.

First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino returns after batting .321 with five home runs, 17 doubles and 38 RBIs as a freshman last year. Outfielder Kyle Battle claps back with .341 with 36 RBIs and 39 runs as a freshman in 2017.

On the mound for the Monarchs we’ll see sophomore RHP Michael Blanchard, who went 1-3 in six starts a year ago. Blanchard finished with an ERA of 5.81 in those starts, and he’s never gone longer than three innings in an appearance in his young career, so Iowa will have a chance to break in the righty.

It will be interesting to see how Iowa’s No. 3 Brady Schanuel will look in his Hawkeye debut. Schanuel pitched at Parkland college in 2016 & ‘17, earning all-American honors both years. He finished his JUCO career 20-4 and a Parkland record 261 total strikeouts. He appeared for Iowa in the World University Games, going 0-0 with a 2.16 ERA in two starts, including an outing where he tossed a 5.1 inning no-hitter against Mexico while fanning 8 batters. He was shutdown earlier this year with some rotator cuff problems, but it looks like he’ll be good to go for this weekend, if only for a few innings.

On paper, I really like Iowa’s chances of getting the 2018 season off to a hot start. Old Dominion could pose some problems, but Brady Schanuel could be a flamethrower in the making, and I like how Rick Heller is trotting him out against Iowa’s most formidable opponent during its opening series.

If you want to follow along, all the games will be streamed on A day pass costs $12 and a weekend pass is $25. All the games will be broadcast on the Hawkeye Radio Network with Zach Mackey on the call.

WMT-AM 600 in Cedar Rapids, WDBQ-FM 107.5 in Dubuque, KXIC-AM 800 in Iowa City, KJAN-AM/FM 1220 and 101.1 in Atlantic, KDEC-FM 100.5 in Decorah and KKFD-FM 95.9 in Fairfield.