After another successful week that saw the Hawkeyes take two of three against a ranked Illinois squad and defeat Grand View on Wednesday, Iowa shifts its focus back to a busy schedule that sees them play four games in four days. Due to forecasted poor weather conditions in Iowa City this weekend, Iowa will play host to Ohio State in a series that takes place Saturday through Monday (including a Saturday double header) before traveling to Peoria, IL to take on the Bradley Braves on Tuesday. Both of their upcoming opponents have been on a bit of a roll as of late, with Ohio State winners of 11 of their previous 13 contests and Bradley winners of their last three.
Saturday (Game 1): 1:05 p.m. CT
Probables: LHP Nick Allgeyer (3-2, 2.45 ERA) vs. LHP Connor Curlis (4-1, 3.51 ERA)
Saturday (Game 2): 4:30 p.m. CT
Probables: RHP Brady Schanuel (4-3, 4.06 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Feltner (3-1, 5.18 ERA)
Sunday: 12:05 p.m. CT
Probables: RHP Cole McDonald (2-1, 3.52 ERA) vs. RHP Adam Niemeyer (2-2, 5.85 ERA)
Previewing Ohio State
The Buckeyes come into this matchup fresh off the heels of a series victory over Big Ten opponent Nebraska last weekend. After dropping game one to the Huskers, Ohio State defeated them in a 7-4 game and then a wild 15-14 game last Sunday. Ohio State is 19-8 on the season and just 2-1 in conference play after starting a week later than most teams, and comes into the weekend with an RPI of 60, which firmly places them fifth in the Big Ten in RPI behind Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota (in that order), per NCAA.com.* Their victories against ranked teams include wins against Coastal Carolina and Southern Mississippi.
Ohio State’s biggest strength is their offense which puts runners on and gets them home at an insane clip. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in: batting average (.309), runs per game (7.9!!!!!!!!!!), on-base percentage (.399), runs (212), and hits (297), and they’re also second in the conference with 24 home runs on the season. They should be a really good test for Nick Allgeyer and Co. this weekend, who have been pretty good as of late themselves (with the exception of the 13-run stinker against Illinois last weekend). Noah McGowan is the obvious star of the team - after a mediocre junior campaign, McGowan leads the team with a .411 average, six home runs, 12 doubles, 37 RBI, and a .480 OBP, surpassing his 2017 totals by a wide margin in eight less games thus far. Behind him, there are some more potent hitters - four other guys hit above .300 and have at least a few home runs. If there’s a weakness this lineup has, it’s that they have a propensity to strike out - as a team, they strike out more than eight times per game, but on the flip side, they also walk about five times a game. It appears as though they’re willing to see their pitches and work deep counts, which could work against someone like strikeout machine Brady Schanuel if he’s a bit wild.
Now, with a team that can hit so well, you might’ve guessed that their weakness is their pitching staff, and you wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect. They pitch to the tune of a fairly decent 4.14 ERA, which quite frankly isn’t great, but is good enough to win them most games with the way they hit. There are some obvious weaknesses, though - two of their three starters, as noted above, own an ERA over 5.18 and are definitely susceptible to a bad start this weekend. If Iowa can knock those guys around early, they stand a good chance at beating the Buckeyes a couple times this weekend.
If those guys are able to shut the Hawks down, Iowa will face a tough test against their bullpen, which has been pretty solid for the most part this year. All but one of Ohio State’s relievers own an ERA under 4.80, and the ‘pen is led by dominant closer Seth Kinker. Kinker is 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 12 appearances and has six saves to his credit. He’s a lot like Zach Daniels in the way that he’s often asked to pitch multiple innings - in his 12 outings, he’s already pitched 25 innings this season and recorded 29 strikeouts to just three walks. Helluva ratio.
Iowa has been really good as of late, as they’ve won 9 of 12. They currently find themselves tied for seventh in the Big Ten at 3-2, but a series win could catapult them near the top of the standings depending on how Michigan (3-0) and Purdue (4-0) fare this weekend. After taking down ranked teams in their first two conference series, winning at least two of three against OSU shouldn’t be out of the question. The Buckeyes have a potent offense, but Nick Allgeyer has been great all year and Brady Schanuel could have his way with the Bucks if he’s able to find the strike zone and keep his pitch count relatively low. The Hawks have shown lately that they’re no pushover and have shown they’re not going away in 2018.
Time to find the next gear, fellas.
How to Catch the Game
This weekend’s games will be available on BTN+ for those of you that are subscribers. If not, you’ll be able to listen to the games on the Hawkeye Radio Network. If you’re a real warrior and in the area this weekend, you could try to bear the weather, although it’s likely to snow on Sunday and Monday.
*NCAA.com is the definitive source on all things NCAA and the RPI here is not to be disputed by anyone who would like to comment about Ohio State and their schedule. Thanks for reading.