After an error-plagued midweek loss to Western Illinois, the Hawkeyes are back in action this weekend against the hated Gophers from the north. In tribute to the Foldin’ Gophers, I present this to you. Now, let’s preview this weekend’s series.
Game 1: Minnesota at Iowa (Friday, 6 PM CT)
Game 2: Minnesota at Iowa (Saturday, 2 PM CT)
Game 3: Minnesota at Iowa (Sunday, 1 PM CT)
All three games will be streamed on Hawkeye All-Access ($$$) and on radio via AM-800 KXIC.
Game 1: Calvin Mathews: 3-2, 2.75 ERA vs. Alec Crawford: 3-1, 4.07 ERA
Game 2: Sasha Kuebel: 4-3, 4.93 ERA vs. Ben Meyer: 3-2, 2.65 ERA
Game 3: Tyler Peyton: 4-0, 4.39 ERA vs. Neil Kunik: 1-0, 2.35 ERA
The Gophers will trot out Iowa native Alec Crawford this evening against the Hawks. Crawford found his way to Minneapolis via DMACC and finished his first year at Minnesota with a 4-2 record and sparkling 2.28 ERA. Despite his impressive first season in maroon and gold, Crawford has allowed eleven runs in his last two starts and I’m hoping the Hawks can welcome his treasonous colors with crooked numbers.
Saturday’s game will see junior Ben Meyer take the hill. Meyer is certainly an economical pitcher, issuing only eleven walks this season while carrying a 2.65 ERA. Following Meyer is something-called Neil Kunik. Kunik will be making his first start of the year and the first of his career after walking on this fall to John Anderson’s squad.
Outside of last Friday’s collapse, Hawkeye pitching has performed well in the last week. Sasha Kuebel was named Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week after allowing one run in 14 2/3 innings of work. Likewise, sophomore Tyler Peyton turned a strong performance against Northwestern, lasting seven innings while allowing one run. I’m hesitant to call Peyton’s performance great, however, because he issued five walks. I guess he wanted to keep jNW entertained.
Minnesota ranks second to last in the Big Ten with a team batting average of .240. Absent from the Gopher lineup is an everyday player hitting over .300. Tony Skjefte leads the Rodents in average, boasting (loose term) a .267 average. The enemy averages a pedestrian 4.2 runs a game. Even James Vandenberg laughs at that production.
After being swept by Indiana, the Hawkeyes found their bats last weekend to the tune of forty-two hits and twenty-six runs. Dan Potempa still leads the team in batting average with a .362 line. As has been the case most of the season, Jake Mangler continues to drive in the most runs on the team, entering the weekend with 30 RBI. The biggest surprise over the past two weeks is the emergence of sophomores Nick Roscetti and Jimmy Frankos. Frankos has taken over catching duties while Trevor Kenyon heals and Roscetti filled in well for Eric Toole last weekend, who was also on the mend.
The last time Iowa took a series from Minnesota was 2005 and Steve Alford was still coaching across the street from Duane Banks Field. Since 2004, Iowa is 12-27 against the Gophers. That is positively pitiful. I hate the Gophers and this is unacceptable.
How have the Gophers managed to Iowa so frequently? Coach John Anderson preaches defense and limiting mistakes, shown by a .985 fielding percentage in Big Ten play this year. Gopher pitching always seems to stymie Iowa hitters and this weekend will be no different. The Gophers boast the conference’s third best ERA.
Iowa needs to set the tone tonight by continuing the offensive onslaught. Likewise, Kuebel and Peyton need to step up like they did last weekend against Northwestern to prevent the bullpen from throwing long innings. Finally, Iowa must avoid being handcuffed by walk-on Neil Kunik. Iowa baseball fans have seen lackluster pitching beat Hawkeye hitters far too many times over the years and it cannot happen this weekend.