In sports we like to look ahead. If you are playing or coaching, the cliche is true in that you take it one game at a time. As fans? Not so much. This is about where the Hawkeyes sat last year regarding post-season baseball. The Hawks didn’t get the hay in the barn in 2021. Iowa lost a “bad” mid-week game May 3rd to Illinois State (RPI 171). The Hawks took two of three against Purdue to move to 28-16/12-6 on the year. Let’s take a look at last week and then look ahead to Michigan State. The Hawkeyes do not have a mid-week opponent this week.
Illinois State Loss
Big-picture these non-conference games are not the be-all-end-all. Conference games carry much more weight... until you lose games you should win. Iowa dropped a 3-2 game to the Redbirds last Tuesday. The Hawkeye pitchers struck out slugger Ryan Cermak twice, the Hawks allowed only three runs, but an unearned run was the difference. Iowa’s bats did not score a run against Illinois State’s five relief pitchers. Hopefully looking back on the season, this loss is not one that keeps the Hawkeyes out of the Regionals.
Hawks Win Series Against Boilers - Was Two Out of Three Enough?
Iowa scored 20 runs in the three game series. I’d take that all day, every day. The Hawkeyes won Friday night’s series opener 5-2, gave up a bunch of runs in Saturday’s game two loss (10-6), and came back strong winning the series finale 9-1. It was Iowa’s fourth-straight series win. With two more series to play, Rick Heller’s squad probably needs at least one sweep the rest of the way.
The player of the game was again Iowa’s starting pitcher Adam Mazur. He went 8 2⁄3 innings (almost his second-straight complete game) and was masterful. He gave up five hits and walked just one batter. He improved to 6-2 with an ERA of 2.37 on the season. Ben Beutel came in and retired one Boilermaker for his third save. Offensively Michael Seegers (.285) had two hits, Izaya Fullard (.316) went 3 for 4, and Ben Wilmes (.270) drove in two.
As starting pitching goes, so goes a baseball team. Iowa’s Connor Schultz lasted just 2 2⁄3 innings and gave up five hits and three earned runs. Dylan Nedved then replicated that going 3 1⁄3 innings, allowing the same. Spotting Purdue a 6-0 lead ended up being too much to overcome. Offensively Peyton Williams (2 for 5), Keaton Anthony (2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and his 9th home run), Brendan Sher (2 for 4), and Kyle Huckstorf (2 for 4) had some nice at bats. Losing a 10-6 baseball game has the same vibe as a Big 12 football game. (Shout out to Little Brother)
All things became right in the Hawkeye world again on Sunday as the Hawks cruised to a 9-1 win over Purdue. Ty Langenberg was dominant going 7 innings, giving up five hits, 1 earned run, and striking out seven while walking just one. Langenberg (5-1, ERA 2.93) seems to have his mojo back. Duncan Davitt pitched the final two innings, striking out 5 and not allowing a run. Iowa had two defensive gems on the day.
This wasn't on SportsCenter, but we thought it was pretty slick! pic.twitter.com/2gtXGO8Woz— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 9, 2022
Nothing like Hawkeyes making plays like that with the leather (or barehanded in Brendan Sher’s case)! Iowa’s bats were hot against Purdue in game three as well. Keaton Anthony hit his 10th home run and Brendan Sher drove in three and Ben Wilmes drove in two. The Hawks made some brilliant plays defensively. Iowa did commit four errors for the series. Getting 2 out of 3 well-pitched games out of your starter is a recipe for success. At this point the Hawks may face an uphill battle to make the postseason if they aren’t firing on all cylinders.
Hawks Head to Sparty
Although Michigan State sits at 6-12 in the B1G (RPI of 162), the Spartans have won six-straight ballgames. This is a series the Hawkeyes may need to sweep. That’s a tall order against Division 1 athletes. Michigan State’s offensive numbers mirror those of the Hawkeyes. Sparty is slashing (BA/OBP/SLG) .272/.355/.409 whereas the Hawkeyes are at .271/.374/.408. It’s going to come down to pitching, defense, and timely hitting. Not exactly rocket science. The Spartans have three formidable hitters in Mitch Jebb (.331 6 HR’s), Jack Frank (.319 7 HR’s), and Casey Mayes (.309).
On the mound Michigan State’s team ERA is elevated (5.82). The Spartans’ starting pitching staff is statistically sub-par. Their best starter is Conner Tomasic (3-3, ERA 4.61). After that Nick Powers (3-6, ERA 6.37) and Harrison Cook (0-4, ERA 8.12) are basically throwing batting practice. Look for excellent offensive numbers for our Hawkeyes next weekend.
Friday, May 13. 5:35pm. B1G+
Saturday, May 14. 3:05pm. B1G+
Sunday, May 15. 12:05pm. B1G+
All games are also on the Hawkeye Radio Network.
Postseason (Free Baseball)
The Big Ten Tournament will be May 25-29 in Omaha, Nebraska. It will be an eight-team (the Hawks are easily in this), double-elimination tournament. The winner of this tournament wins an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. It would be terrific for the Hawks to eliminate any uncertainty and win this championship. At the same time, it is important for no teams below the Hawkeyes in the B1G standings to catch lightning in a bottle and “steal” the automatic bid.
The NCAA Regionals will be June 3-5. As of 5/4 Baseball America had the Hawkeyes in the projected field of 64. On 5/5 D1 Baseball did not have the Hawkeyes included. Iowa dropped out of their projection from the week before. It’s gonna be tight, Hawk fans. Let’s take care of Sparty and go from there, Hawkeyes. As always, it’s great to be a Hawkeye.