I’d like to complain about the Iowa Hawkeyes not making the NCAA Regionals. But I can’t. Holy smokes what is going on with this committee? Rutgers finished the season 44-15. They finished second in the Big Ten. Both the regular season and the Big Ten tournament. In a double-elimination tournament, Rutgers lost only the championship game, to cheating Michigan. That’s it. How in the world could the committee snub the Scarlet Knights?!?
Our Hawkeyes made their path to the B1G championship much more difficult by losing the first game to Penn State 2-5. The Hawkeyes then won three straight games against Purdue (5-4), Penn State (11-3), and Michigan (7-3) before running out of arms and losing to Michigan 13-1 in seven innings. The Hawkeyes showed tremendous grit winning three elimination games. This was a squad that was deserving of playing in the postseason. There’s not a team that made the NCAA Regionals that would have wanted to draw the Hawkeyes.
How Did the Hawks Get Skipped Over?
First off, the Big Ten was considered “down” this year. There is definitely a southern-bias that goes against teams from the North. From my perspective what held the Hawkeyes back this year was the quality of their non-conference schedule, especially their mid-week games. Here are some Hawkeye opponents and their respective RPI’s:
Illinois State (188)
Western Illinois (297)
That’s the reason for the Hawks not making the NCAA Regionals. I’m not sure how far out schedules are made, but Gary Barta and Coach Rick Heller have to do whatever they can to improve this slate of non-conference games. Another drawback is location. It’s far easier and cheaper to travel to “local” area colleges/universities for the Tuesday or Wednesday games. Those games absolutely destroy a strength-of-schedule or RPI. This is the reason why Iowa’s May 17th game vs. Illinois Chicago was cancelled. Of course cost, distance, availability of opponents, etc... come into play, but Iowa could attempt to schedule the following opponents (RPI):
Notre Dame (13), Arkansas (41), Missouri (58), Ball State (65), Southern Illinois (67), Evansville (81), Missouri State (93), Indiana State (108). These are respectable opponents relatively close to Iowa City.
Who Do We Lose and What Pieces Return for the Hawkeyes Next Season?
It’s always tough to predict who gets selected in the Major League Baseball draft. Also, it is common for underclassmen to not sign and return to school. As far as seniors are concerned Iowa’s main loss on offense is second baseman Izaya Fullard. Fullard battled injuries early in the year but he bounced back to take home a spot on the B1G all-tournament team.
The Hawkeyes return their top four batters in Keaton Anthony (B1G freshman of the year), Peyton Williams, Michael Seegers, and Kyle Huckstorf (all B1G tourney team).
Iowa loses to graduation more from the pitching staff than position players. Dylan Nedved, Ben Beutel, Connor Schultz, and Cam Baumann are all seniors. Admittedly, I’m not 100% sure who all is able to take the COVID super-senior route. That could play a major role in Iowa’s staff next year.
Adam Mazur (B1G Pitcher of the Year) is just a redshirt sophomore. Mazur’s name has come up in numerous draft conversations so there is a very good chance he has played his last game for the black and gold. If not, the Hawks have a tremendous starter that can anchor the staff.
Ty Langenberg (7-2, ERA 3.71) would be the ace of the staff if Mazur is drafted and leaves the collegiate ranks.
Brody Brecht is a tremendous prospect who did not fare well in his one start this year, going only 1⁄3 of an inning against Michigan. Brecht has a live arm that if controlled will be a dominant pitcher. Rick Heller and pitching coach Robin Lund have an excellent track record of developing quality pitchers. Trenton Wallace won the B1G Pitcher of the Year in 2021.
Prior to writing for Black Heart Gold Pants I did not follow Iowa Hawkeye baseball very closely. This season I enjoyed watching and listening to the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes have an excellent group of players returning. If the schedule can be bolstered, the Hawkeyes return a few players who may get drafted, and the players continue to develop, the Hawkeyes can definitely make the NCAA Regionals in 2023, despite the ridiculous bias against B1G teams and teams from the northern part of the country.
Now let’s get on to some Iowa Hawkeye Football! PS, we hate Purdue. As always, Go Hawks!