The Hawkeyes kick off a three game series today at 2:05 PM CT in Columbus against Ohio State. Games two and three are at 2:05 PM CT Sunday, and 6:05 PM CT Monday, and will both air live on BTN (!!!). To frame the importance of this series, let's first catch up on recent Iowa baseball results and how the Big Ten standings look.
Iowa is currently on a five-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes took two of three in a big home series against Minnesota from April 18 to 20. Minnesota took the opener 4-3, behind a three-run sixth inning against Iowa ace Calvin Mathews, and an an unearned go-ahead ninth-inning run. Hawkeye pitcher Sasha Kuebel rebounded from a four-spot in the first to pick up the win in seven strong innings in game two. The Hawkeye lineup managed to erase a 5-0 deficit for Kuebel in emphatic (and balanced fashion). Jake Mangler actually led the Hawks with three RBI while going 0-4, garnering ribbies on a hit by pitch, groundout, and error. A four-run sixth inning put Iowa over the top, and the Hawkeyes added on and ran away with an 11-5 win. Another come-from-behind effort took the rubber game, as Iowa erased a 3-0 deficit with a six-run seventh inning, eventually winning 7-6. Dan Potempa provided the exclamation point in that seventh inning with a three-run blast.
Iowa then swept South Dakota State last weekend in a three-game set. Iowa needed extra frames to notch a 2-1 victory in game one, with Eric Toole notching a game-tying RBI triple in the seventh inning, and Taylor Zeutenhorst bringing home Nick Day on a walk-off RBI single in the eleventh. Game two did not feature extra frames, but still had all the walk-off flair, with day again scoring the game-ending run, this time in the ninth on a Tyler Peyton single to send Iowa to a 4-3 victory. In the finale, Taylor Zeutenhorst hit two solo dingers, and Andrew Hedrick picked up the win with 5 1/3 shutout innings of long relief.
Iowa had a 4/23 date at Creighton, and a 4/29 home game against Milwaukee cancelled around the SDSU series, though I don't know why. The weather has been fantastic.
I would customarily leap right in the Tale of the Tape, but all conference series now have a large impact on the conference tournament, so we'll look at the standings first. The top eight teams in the standings qualify. I've looked up tiebreakers before, but can't remember them now, so we'll discuss those in another post if they're still in play when Iowa heads to Purdue to wrap up conference play in two weeks.
|8. Ohio State||6-9||.400||25-20||.556|
|9. Penn State||5-10||.333||17-24||.415|
As you can see, there is an incredible logjam in the middle of the standings, with a lot of teams in spitting distance of one another. The best news for Iowa, though, is the recent slide of Penn State. The Nittany Lions have dropped ten straight games, including nine in conference play, and a nice little cushion is opening up after the critical eighth spot, for which Iowa currently leads Ohio State by one game. With Penn State currently at Nebraska, a series win over Ohio State could all but wrap up a conference tourney berth for Iowa. Also, with Minnesota off, a series win would pull the Hawks into a tie with Minnesota, the impact of which depends on what the weekend holds for Michigan State (at Illinois), and Michigan (at Northwestern), who lead Iowa by a half game and percentage points, respectively. Mathematically, Iowa could end the weekend anywhere from fourth place to ninth place, although Penn State's recent play may suggest the latter is quite unlikely.
The Tale of The Tape: Iowa at Ohio State
|25-15 (7-8)||Record (Conf.)||25-20 (6-9)|
Not surprisngly, the teams appear pretty evenly matched statistically. A common takeaway of our preview write-ups this conference season (both mine and the esteemed Randy Johnson's Mullet), has been that, of the middle-of the pack Big Ten teams, Iowa is the bull in the China shop, preferring to win higher-scoring battles of pitching attrition, while the Michigans and Minnesotas are more of the small-ball, pitching, and defense types. Iowa's method has held up pretty well, even in conference play, and if the prior series against the Wolverines and Gophers are any indication, there will be three tooth-and-nail games in Columbus.
|Calvin Mathews (3-2, 2.86 ERA)||Game 1||Tanner Tully (4-2, 2.24 ERA)|
|Sasha Kuebel (5-3, 4.83 ERA)||Game 2||Ryan Riga (4-1, 3.02 ERA)|
|Tyler Peyton (4-0, 4.38 ERA)||Game 3||Greg Greve (5-3, 3.48 ERA)|
Mathews has been Iowa's horse this year, but it appears OSU has a pretty strong and well-balanced rotation from one to three. Tully and Riga are both lefties, which may frustrate an Iowa lineup reliant on lefties for a lot of on-base fireworks (Toole, Yacinich, and Zeutenhorst have a combined 41 SB out of Iowa's 65 as a team) and power (Zeutenhorst leads Iowa with 9 HR). Neither Tully nor Greve is much of a strikeout pitcher, though, with each notching about one K for every two innings ptiched, so perhaps Iowa can work in a little small ball and manufacture enough runs.
It's supposed to be breezy today in Columbus, but clear Sunday and Monday. I've got to literally go now to be in the wedding of one of my best friends, and a great Hawkeye fan. You know who you are, Buddy Boy.
I'll recap this series early next week, but perhaps we can haz gamethreads for the Sunday and Monday televised games.