After dropping all four of their games in the past week and extending their losing-streak to five games, their first streak this long since the 2012 season, the Hawkeyes will look to get things back on track against the University of Evansville. Luckily enough for Iowa, the Purple Aces aren’t on top of their game as of late, and it could provide the remedy for a baseball team that’s down on its luck.
Friday: Game postponed, double-header Saturday
Saturday (Game 1): 12:05pm CT
Probables: LHP Nick Allgeyer (1-1, 1.82 ERA) vs. RHP Jace Burke (0-0, 2.57 ERA)
Saturday (Game 2): 4:05pm CT
Probables: RHP Brady Schanuel (2-2, 4.24 ERA) vs. RHP Adam Lukas (1-1, 1.64 ERA)
Sunday: 1:05pm CT
Probables: RHP Cole McDonald (1-1, 4.19 ERA) vs. RHP Austin Allinger (1-1, 5.50 ERA)
Evansville, who was picked to finish seventh (of eight teams) in the Missouri Valley Conference, is 5-8 on the season and thus far, an incredibly streaky team. After winning their first game of the year, they proceeded to go on a five-game losing streak, followed that up with four straight victories, and most recently, were swept on the road by Florida Gulf Coast. This means, obviously, that they will either sweep or be swept by the Hawkeyes this weekend, and that there are no alternatives to this reality that we live in.
The biggest weakness for the Purple Aces this season has been their pitching staff, and that’s most evident by the changes they’re making to the weekend rotation. Adam Lukas, who draws the Game 2 start for Evansville, has been their best pitcher by far this season in his seven appearances. This will be his first start of the season after starting the year out of the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see how long of a start he makes and how effective he’ll be as the game goes on.
It’ll be a similar story for righty Jace Burke. Burke, who’s pitched seven innings over three games, will be making his second start of the season in Saturday’s first game. Burke’s longest outing of the season was 2.2 innings in a relief appearance last weekend, so he doesn’t figure to go very deep into Game 1 of the series. In his lone start (which came during a weekday game), he went 2.1 innings and only surrendered one base hit en route to an Evansville victory. Now he’ll be expected to take on a bigger role for the Purple Aces after ineffectiveness plagued their original weekend starters.
Overall, Evansville’s pitching staff is wildly bad. They’re routinely throwing guys with ERAs over 6.00 on the mound, and the overall staff ERA is 4.78. They’re surrendering a .257 BAA, which isn’t quite good, but they’re been particularly stung by their penchant for allowing free baserunners - the staff has issued 59 walks and hit 15 more batters in 116.2 innings, which comes out to about .64 free baserunners per inning. If Iowa can find their patience at the plate again, they have a good chance at getting plenty of guys on base this series.
On the flip side of things, Evansville is led by Troy Beilsmith at the dish. Beilsmith is hitting a great .348 on the season with plenty of pop - he leads the Purple Aces in doubles (7) and walks (6) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (2) and HBPs (3). He also leads the team in on-base percentage at .455, which is about 80 points higher than the next player on the team who meets playing-time qualifications.
After Beilsmith, the drop-off is quick. Evansville has just one other hitter with an average of .300, and qualifying players (75% of games, 2 AB/G) have their averages dip as low as .132. Honestly, their offense has performed about the same as Iowa’s offense, which we’ve talked about as being lackluster for most of the season. There’s a bit more power for the Purple Aces, but otherwise, the numbers are mostly identical.
If Iowa can get solid pitching performances this weekend and some run support, they should be able to get some victories.
It all starts with one, and hopefully they can build from there.