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Iowa baseball travels to Illinois

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A WEEKEND SERIES AGAINST THE ILLINI AWAITS

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

After splitting a pair of games against Indiana last weekend, a cancelled game against the Hoosiers, and a 13-9 win against Bradley thanks to a Tyler Cropley walk-off grand slam, Iowa Baseball is back in action tonight in Champaign, IL for a weekend series against the Illini.

This will be another tough weekend for the Hawks, as the Illini are ranked #22 or #25 depending on your baseball poll of choice, and have won six straight games, and 15 of their last 17. Last weekend they swept Northwestern in Evanston.

YIKES! Hellerball has its work cut out for it this weekend. However, after securing one win against Inianadilast weekend, I somethink of the fears about Iowa baseball’s only wins coming against teams will losing records were quelled. But regardless, Illinois is coming into this one hot.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Unlike last weekend, the weather is looking ok this weekend, if not a little cold still (spring, where r u?), so there should be no cancellations or time shifts.

Friday (Game 1): 6 p.m. CT

Probables: LHP Nick Allgeyer (2-2, 2.15 ERA) vs. Quinn Snarksis (3-0, 3.00 ERA)

Saturday (Game 2): 3 p.m. CT

Probables: RHP Brady Schanuel (4-2, 2.48 ERA) vs. Andy Fisher (1-0, 3.90 ERA)

Sunday (Game 3): 2 p.m. CT

Probables: RHP Cole McDonald (1-1, 3.70 ERA) vs. Ty Weber (2-1, 2.68 ERA)

Sunday’s game will be on the Big Ten Network, while the other two will be broadcast on BTN2Go.

Previewing Illinois

Like I said above, Illinois is a pretty feasible opponent, and hwne you start breaking down the numbers, it’s easy to see why. The Illini are outscoring their opponents by more than three runs a game and hitting .292 as a team. The name to know is Bren Spillane (great name). According to Illinois Sports information, he leads the conference in “nearly” every statistical category. He’s ranked first in the country for slugging (1.077) and second in the nation in batting average (.474). He also ranks second in the nation in OPS and fourth in homers and on-base percentage.

Just take a look at the page I linked above. Illinois is good, and when you have someone like Spillane, it’s easy to see why, but the team overall seems to perform very well. Leading the league in home runs is a very good thing and plays a big part in that 3-run differential against opponents. They also enter the series with eight fewer errors than any other Big Ten team.

I’ll stop there because hopefully by now you get the point: Illinois is good. But so was Indiana, and after a bad loss to start the series, Heller’s squad came back with a nice win over the Hoosiers that...may have saved the season?

Who knows what Hawkeye team we’ll see for these three games. Maybe the Cropley grand slam (watch that video, linked above, btw, it’s good) changed things for the better and will help the Hawkeyes get going offensively. But obviously what will matter most is the pitching, and with the way Illinois is hitting, who knows what we’ll see. Look for the most likely win to come tomorrow with Schanel on the mound; he is 2-0 in his last two starts with an ERA of 0.00. He’s a big reason why the Hawks were able to hold the Hoosiers to one run in their lone ranked win of the year.

Losing this series certainly isn’t the end of the world; Iowa is a mid-tier Big Ten team at this point in the season, and the Illini are near the top. But hey, the games are played for a reason, and a win or two against another ranked opponent would do a lot to get this team moving in the right direction.