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Rick Heller, photo from @UIBaseball
Rick Heller, photo from @UIBaseball

After an ELECTRIC opening weekend where the Iowa baseball team swept its first three opponents of the season, the Hawkeyes head back down south to take on Virginia Tech, Ball State and the University of New Orleans ... in New Orleans as part of the Allstate Sugar Bowl baseball classic.

The first game against the Hokies takes place today at 12:30 PM CT. Iowa’s No. 1 pitcher, Nick Allgeyer, is taking the mound after tossing five innings where he gave up 3 unearned runs in a 4-3 win against Toledo. He threw 7 strikeouts against the Rockets and could keep on throwing flames on the bump against the Hokies.

Virginia Tech went 1-3 its opening weekend, dropping games against Coastal Carolina, South Alabama and Kansas State. Its lone win was a 14-6 barnburner over Oklahoma. Virginia Tech couldn’t do much that opening weekend — the pitching staff posted a 7.41 ERA over the four games, giving up 37 hits over 34 innings. Iowa will face senior RHP Connor Coward today, who gave up 3 runs on 2 hits in a 7-5 loss to South Alabama. He also walked 6 batters in that outing.

The Virginia Tech bats are faring slightly better than its staff. The team posted a .279 average in its first four games, and aggregated over 6 runs an outing.

A fun little wrinkle in this is who’s coaching the Hokies — John Szefc is in his first year in Blacksburg after spending the last five years coaching the University of Maryland. He went 2-6 against Iowa while coaching the Terps.

On Saturday, Iowa takes on Ball State, which finished last season with a 30-28 record. The Cardinals are currently 2-2, with two wins against UMass Lowell and two losses to Morehead State. RHP Kyle Nicholas will take the mound against Iowa at 6PM Saturday; he allowed one hit over 5 innings and fanned 9 in a 4-3 win over UMass Lowell on Feb. 17.

Iowa will trot out RHP Brady Schanuel against Nicholas. Schanuel, who was the No. 3 starter last week, pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless ball against Old Dominion last Sunday where he allowed 2 hits and struck out 4 batters. Ball State hasn’t displayed much firepower so far this season, scoring just over three runs a game while batting .239 as a team, so I’d like to see Schanuel feast here.

On Sunday at 1PM, Iowa faces probably its best competition of the weekend in host team New Orleans. Cole McDonald is making his second start of the season here after he got roughed up against Oakland a week ago.

McDonald allowed 5 earned runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings while striking out just one batter last Saturday. His bullpen bailed him out, allowing just one run the rest of the game surging Iowa to an 8-6 win.

New Orleans is 2-3 overall, with losses to LSU, Alabama State and Jackson State and wins over UIC and Southern. The Privateers seem to be the most balanced team Iowa faces all weekend; they’ve posted a team ERA of 4.80 and a .260 batting average while putting 6 runs on the board each game.

New Orleans hasn’t announced who will face the Hawkeyes yet. It will be a right-hander, though. Both Brayson Smith and Eric Orze boast a 6.00 ERA; this seems like another winnable game for the Hawkeyes.

All three games will be streamed on the New Orleans athletics website for a fee. The contests will also be on the Hawkeye Radio Network with Zach Mackey on the call. Game times mentioned above are Central.