The Hawkeye baseball team enters the third weekend of conference action and host defending Big Ten Champion and 2013 College World Series participant Indiana. Let's get it started!!!
Schedule (all times CT)
Game 1: Indiana at Iowa (Saturday, 3 pm)
Game 2: Indiana at Iowa (Sunday, 2 pm)
Game 3: Indiana at Iowa (Monday, 1 pm)
Live audio and video streams will be available on Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
Game 1: Calvin Mathews: 3-1, 1.91 ERA vs. Joey DeNato: 5-1, 2.22 ERA
Game 2: Sasha Kuebel: 2-2, 5.5 ERA vs. Christian Morris: 1-2, 2.23 ERA
Game 3: Tyler Peyton: 3-0, 5.44 ERA vs. TBD
Indiana boasts the best team ERA (2.67) in the Big Ten by a wide margin. Moreover, four Hoosier pitchers can be found among the lowest ERAs in the Big Ten, with reliever Scott Effross sporting a microscopic 1.38 ERA in fifteen appearances out of the bullpen. Fellow reliever Luke Harrison has only allowed five runs in eleven appearances, ranking as Coach Tracy Smith’s second favorite arm.
The starting pitching is headlined by senior Joey DeNato. DeNato is the Jamie Moyer of the Big Ten; he’s been around for what seems like thirty years, he’s a lefthander who doesn’t overpower you, and he seems to win nearly every game he pitches (29-9 for his career). Following DeNato in the Hoosier rotation is Christian Morris, who carries an ERA below three.
Throw in senior Kyle Hart, who may or may not pitch Sunday due to an injury, and the trio of DeNato, Hart, and Morris combine for ninety-two career appearances. Additionally, these three pitched during last year’s College World Series and will provide the Hawkeyes with their biggest challenge so far this season.
EDIT: Hart is likely out.
Iowa will once again throw Mathews, Kuebel, and Peyton. Mathews went the distance in last weekend’s sole victory over Michigan. Kuebel has gradually improved following his poor start, allowing only one run in two appearances last week. Peyton, meanwhile, struggled in his start against the Wolverines and needs to chew up more innings to give the Hawkeyes a chance to take Monday’s finale.
Dustin DeMuth, Sam Travis, and Kyle Schwarber are three of the most feared hitters in the Big Ten. The trio have hit seven home runs of the team’s nine home runs, scored 42.5 percent of the year’s runs, and touched nearly 47 percent of the bases through twenty-six games. Additionally, Casey Rodrgiue has provided a spark at the top of the order, hitting at a .305 clip and swiping ten bases.
Going into the weekend, junior Dan Potempa ranks second in batting average and on base percentage while ranking sixth in slugging percentage. Teammate Taylor Zeutenhorst remains tied for the conference lead in home runs. Jake Yacinich’s fourteen stolen bases are tied for best in the conference.
Like I pointed out two weeks ago in my Nebraska preview, the Hawkeye pitchers will once again be up against a premier offensive lineup (arguably better than Nebraska). Likewise, Iowa hitters will face a battle-tested starting rotation that can turn to a talented bullpen without missing a beat.
This series will come down to starting pitching and clutch hitting for the Hawkeyes. Kuebel proved himself last weekend and hopefully Peyton can do the same this weekend. Similarly, Iowa cannot afford to leave runners on base like they did last weekend (they left thirty-one on base against Michigan).
With as much talent as Indiana has, I would be content with taking one of the three games to preserve the early season momentum Iowa has carried so far. Let's hope the Hawks are up to the challenge.