For the first time in six years and for just the sixth time ever, the Iowa Hawkeyes are poised to take the field for an NCAA Regional matchup. The appearance is the first since Iowa was knocked out in the 2017 Regionals, which was their second appearance in three years. Prior to that run, it had been 25 years since Iowa had made a regional (1990), with the only two other appearances coming 15 years prior and also three years apart (1972 and 1975).
Now the Hawkeyes look to make the most of an historic season, which saw the team get off to the best start in program history (19-3) and lead head coach to his 300th win with the program and 1,000th win overall. Heller, now in his 6th career regional, is tied with legendary coach Duane Banks for regional appearances.
Standing between the Hawkeyes and even more history is a day one matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Terre Haute Regional. UNC comes into the day with a 35-22 record overall, including a 12-18 record against tournament teams. Finishing 4th in the ACC Coastal division, the Tar Heels earned a 3-seed in the region.
Here’s a quick look at UNC’s stats at a glance:
OFFENSE: 7.6 runs (62nd), .285 AVG (119th), .402 OBP (43rd), .480 slugging (73rd)
PITCHING: 4.73 ERA (50th), 8.7 hits (67th), 9.0 K/9 (84th), 4.46 BB/9 (125th), 1.48 WHIP (72nd)
DEFENSE: .974 fielding percentage (78th)
Compare that with the Hawkeyes:
OFFENSE: 8.3 runs (20th), .298 AVG (53rd), .419 OBP (14th), .484 slugging (66th)
PITCHING: 4.04 ERA (11th), 6.7 hits (2nd), 11.0 K/9 (5th), 5.33 BB/9 (235th), 1.27 WHIP (9th)
DEFENSE: .981 fielding percentage (14th)
Today’s matchup will feature some premier pitching with Iowa starting ace Marcus Morgan against North Carolina’s Jake Knapp. A righty, Knapp is set to make his 16th start of the year. He enters the day with a 4.79 ERA over 62.0 innings of work. The quick math there tells you Knapp is averaging just under 4 innings per start, meaning the Hawkeyes may be tapping the North Carolina bullpen early in this one.
That’s come as a result of opponents hitting the ball hard when they do connect on Knapp’s pitches. While he is averaging roughly one K per inning pitched, a full 46% of his hits given up this season (also one per inning of work) have gone for extra bases. That includes 14 home runs surrendered this season - roughly one every four innings.
Also of note, the Tar Heels will once again be without ACC Defensive Player of the Year Vance Honeycutt. The talented outfielder finished the year with a blistering .986 fielding percentage and a slew of highlights for the reel at the wall. At the plate, Honeycutt was hitting just .257, but led the team in walks (49) and racked up 12 HRs on the year. He’s missed the last several weeks with a lower back injury that is expected to hold him out of the entirety of the regional round.
Here’s a look at the details for tonight’s matchup.
MATCHUP: #2 Iowa Hawkeyes (42-14) vs #3 North Carolina Tar Heels (35-22)
LOCATION: Terre Haute, Indiana | Bob Warn Field
DATE: June 2, 2023
WATCH: ACCN & ESPN+
LISTEN: Hawkeye Radio Network | The Varsity Network | Newsradio 600WMT
LIVE STATS: Live Stats
DRAFTKINGS SPORTSBOOK LINE: Iowa -1.5 | Iowa -140/UNC +100 | O/U 11.5