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Crab cakes and football baseball take center stage when Iowa (21-8, 6-0 B1G) travels to College Park, MD, to take on Maryland (23-8, 7-2 B1G).

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago seems like ancient history for Iowa baseball. It was then that both Randy Johnson's Mullet and I picked the Hawkeyes to finish 6th in the Big Ten. But shortly thereafter, Iowa swept Indiana and Purdue, and moved into numerous national rankings. Now sitting atop the Big Ten alone at 6-0, Iowa (#25 Baseball America) takes a road trip to Maryland to face a stern test in a gaudy Terrapin team (#19 Baseball America).

Both teams come off of mid-week losses, with Iowa dropping a 4-3 contest to UW-Milwaukee, and Maryland surrendering a 12-1 contest to George Washington. But, as we learned when Iowa squeezed a 16-5 loss to Western Illinois between its two victorious Big Ten sweeps, the midweekers don't necessarily mean a lot. It's hard to not see the danger in Maryland, as they come off a three-game sweep of then-No. 18 Nebraska.

The Comparison

There's nothing like a good clash of styles, an irresistible-force-meets-immovable object tussle. And suffice it to say, Iowa's pitching staff will not leave College Park untested. The Terps are tied for 21st nationally (out of 295 teams) in runs scored (228), taking on Iowa's pitching staff ranked 23rd in team ERA (2.80). Maryland also ranks 14th in Division I in slugging percentage (0.458), and T-16th with one home run per game. Iowa, by contrast, has been quite tepid on offense, tying for 180th in runs (150), 174th in slugging (0.365), and 227th in home runs per game (0.31).

The biggest problem for Iowa may not be Maryland's lineup, per se, but that it does not enjoy as great an advantage in pitching as Maryland does in hitting. The Terrapins are 89th nationally in team ERA at 3.82, a full run greater than Iowa. But Maryland actually allows fewer walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) than Iowa, ranking 37th at 1.25, to Iowa's 44th at 1.27.

IOWA Lineup Avg. HR RBI Other MARYLAND Lineup Avg. HR RBI Other
Eric Toole, CF .358 0 11 18/21 SB/ATT Brandon Lowe, 2B .385 8 26 1.187 OPS
Jake Mangler, 2B .306 0 21 0.993 Fld.% Kevin Smith, SS .266 3 19 8/10 SB/ATT
Tyler Peyton, P/1B .364 0 16 0.828 OPS Kevin Martir, C .376 5 25 1.087 OPS
Dan Potempa, DH .225 1 6 3 2B Jose Cuas, 3B .256 5 28 30 R
Kris Goodman, LF .228 2 10 4 3B Nick Cieri, DH .327 3 26 0.864 OPS
Joel Booker, RF .283 2 18 6/10 SB/ATT Tim Lewis, LF .228 0 22 2 3B
Jimmy Frankos, C .088 0 1 5 GIDP Anthony Papio, RF .319 4 16 6/6 SB/ATT
Nick Roscetti, SS .263 1 13 6 SAC Justin Morris, 1B .109 0 3 120 PO
Nick Day, 3B .324 2 10 0.871 OPS Kengo Kawahara, CF .211 0 8 3 2B
IOWA Rotation W-L ERA oppAvg. Other MARYLAND Rotation W-L ERA oppAvg Other
Tyler Peyton 4-2 2.17 .260 8.3 K/9 Mike Shawaryn 7-0 2.00 .192 10.0 K/9
Blake Hickman 4-1 3.13 .212 6.3 K/9 Tayler Stiles 3-2 3.27 .262 9.0 K/9
Calvin Mathews 3-0 1.25 .227 5.8 K/9 Kevin Mooney 0-0 1.64 .083 8.2 K/9
IOWA Bullpen W-L ERA oppAvg Other MARYLAND Bullpen W-L ERA oppAvg Other
Connor Grant 1-1 3.86 .169 5.8 BB/9 Ryan Selmer 3-0 2.05 .198 3.7 K/9
Ryan Erickson 1-0 2.45 .239 8.8 K/9 Robert Galligan 0-1 1.72 .224 1 SV
Luke Vandermaten 1-0 0.51 .222 1.13 WHIP Alex Robinson 1-0 0.00 .068 12.9 K/9

Maryland's Lowe has to be regarded as the most eye-popping offensive performer, especially out of the leadoff spot. He is tied for 27th nationally in home runs, and has one less dinger than Iowa's entire roster. Toole is Iowa's main cog, tying for 14th in the nation in steals, to go with a tremendous .450 OBP. Shawaryn is the 1,000-lb. gorilla at the top of Maryland's rotation, tied for best in the nation with his seven wins, and posting above-solid numbers for his number of starts.

The Matchups

Game One: 5:30 P.M. CT Friday

Peyton will try to help Iowa hand Shawaryn his first loss tonight, having given up 1 ER in 17 IP in his starts in the Indiana and Purdue series. Both times, Peyton's efforts have keyed Iowa sweeps. This matchup is a tall order, but if Peyton can dominate again and notch another W, Iowa will have a good shot at winning the series.

Game Two: 1:00 P.M. CT Saturday (BTN Plus)

Looking at the bare stats alone, Hickman probably has the most vulnerable mound opponent in Stiles. Hickman, though, is a fastballer, who although surrendering the lowest opponents' batting average of Iowa's starters, has given up four of the five home runs surrendered by the Hawkeye rotation. Other than my MANCOTT-fueled Indiana picks, I'm usually not in the prediction business (especially for baseball), but I would say to look for a couple Terrapin round-trippers on Saturday. Hopefully Blake can keep the bases otherwise empty and keep the damage scattered.

Game Three: 11:00 A.M. CT Sunday (BTN Plus)

I always like Iowa's chances in game three. All Mathews has done in returning from a season-ending injury a year ago, when he was Iowa's unquestioned ace, is put up even better numbers in the third spot. On paper, Maryland's Mooney looks frightening, but he has seen mostly relief work this year. He shut down Nebraska last week, but perhaps some regression to the mean may be in order, as he seemingly was previously disfavored in the rotation for Terps with ERAs like 5.52, 6.14, and 6.29.

The Weather

There is a 90% chance of thunderstorms in College Park this afternoon, which may cause problems and necessitate a Saturday doubleheader. Other than that, though, it's looking good for the series on the whole, with sunny weather in the 60s and 70s on Saturday and Sunday. Get some, boys!