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#14 IOWA BASEBALL UPDATE, jNW PREVIEW, AND...JUNE SITUATIONS?!

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Tied for first in the Big Ten standings, the Hawkeyes take on the Wildcats this weekend at Banks Field. Is there a chance Iowa may still be playing at home in June?!

@UIBaseball

Iowa heads back to action this weekend with a three-game homestand against a Northwestern team that's... not very good.  We'll talk about them more in a minute.  But if you haven't read this D1Baseball breakdown of the surprisingly strong Big Ten this season, you definitely should.

Midweek Recap

Iowa traveled to Peoria Tuesday to face off against Bradley of the Missouri Valley Conference, falling 5-4. Bradley, fresh off a win over nationally ranked Dallas Baptist University, struck early with a three run home run but the Hawkeyes clawed back, taking a 4-3 lead in the sixth. After a two-out RBI single from Bradley’s Drew Carlile, Tyler Leffler followed with a double to give the Braves their fifth and final run. Senior Nick Hibbing took the loss for Iowa while five Hawkeye arms saw action on the mound.

Wednesday saw the Hawkeyes begin a ten-game home stand (!) with a victory over Division III Cornell College, 9-1. Freshman Nick Gallagher started for the Hawks, lasting four innings while holding Cornell to one run on two hits. Jared Mandel followed Gallagher on the hill and picked up his second win of the year while holding the Rams hitless for three innings. At the plate, both Joel Booker and John Barrett drove in two runs while Nick Roscetti added two hits for the Black and Gold.

Draft Buzz Around Hickman Grows

Ranked 67th in Baseball America’s preseason prospect report, junior Blake Hickman continues to generate buzz on the mound. David Rawnsley of Perfect Game expects "a team that likes developing pitchers" to select Hickman in the top three rounds of June’s MLB Draft, which is pretty damn awesome for a guy who came in as a catcher. One must go back to 1999 to find a Hawkeye drafted as high as the second round when the Royals selected Wes Obermueller with the seventh pick in the second round.

Rankings and NCAA Tournament Projections…June Situations?!

As Hayden’s_Aviators wrote about earlier this week, Iowa is ranked in all six college baseball polls. That’s pretty cool, folks. Even better is college baseball pundits are now projecting Iowa to the field of sixty-four and Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com has the Hawkeyes as a two seed and a host for the first round. But why, Randy Johnson’s Mullet, might a two seed host the regional rather than the one seed? Because UC-Santa Barbara (the projected #1 seed) lacks the facilities to host a regional, meaning the committee would defer to Iowa under the circumstances. Also, the committee makes an effort to award host sites to schools who haven’t previously hosted, such as UC-Irivine (2009), Purdue (2012), and Indiana (2013). And that could mean June Situations…in Iowa City!!!

Up to the Minute Conference Standings

Overall Conference
Illinois 30-6-1 8-1
Iowa 24-10 8-1
Ohio State 24-9 7-2
Maryland 25-10 8-4
Nebraska 28-11 5-4
Michigan 21-16 6-6
Indiana 21-13 5-6
Michigan State 19-16 4-5
Rutgers 12-23 5-7
Northwestern 10-24 3-6
Minnesota 13-19 3-9
Penn State 12-20 2-6
Purdue 12-24 1-8

How They Stack Up

Head to Head Stats

(Includes conference rank)
IOWA jNW
Team BA .268 (9th) .278 (7th)
Team SB 50 (3rd) 14 (13th)
Team Strikeouts 197 (2nd) 237(11th)
Team OBP .361 (5th) .329 (13th)
Fielding % .979 (1st) .956 (13th)
Team ERA 2.94 (4th) 5.66 (11th)
Opp. BA .223 (1st) .311 (13th)

Northwestern is neither statistically flashy nor a winning team, given their 9-24 record and the above statistics. Northwestern pitchers are the conference's easiest to hit yet the remaining eight fielders are statistically the worst in the Big Ten. Offensively, Northwestern produces based on batting average but they reach base at the lowest rate among Big Ten teams. When they do reach base, they have only eleven steals in thirty-four games, meaning they either run as well as this blogger or Northwestern coach Paul Stevens mirrors Kirk Ferentz in gameplan.

Pitching Probables

Game One: Friday, April 17 -- 6:05 PM CT (BTN Plus)

Hawkeye ace Tyler Peyton (4-3, 2.82) will take hill hoping to rebound from his last start at Maryland where he walked three and allowed five earned runs in his first conference loss of the season. Senior righthander Brandon Magallones (3-2, 6.84) and his mega 12.21 ERA in conference play will counter Peyton for Northwestern. Safe to say recent Hawkeye struggles at the plate should be alleviated with Magallones on the bump.

Game Two: Saturday, April 18 -- 2:00 PM CT (BTN Plus)

Hickman (5-1, 2.91) will face off against Northwestern’s Matt Portland (1-4, 3.57). Hickman threw a gem in last Saturday’s contest against Maryland, allowing one run in 6 and 2/3 innings before Rick Heller deferred to his bullpen. Portland sports a measly 1.66 ERA in Big Ten play and stands as the toughest Wildcat pitcher on paper.

Game Three: Sunday, April 19 -- 1:00 PM CT (BTN Plus)

In maybe his best start of the season, Calvin Mathews stymied Maryland hitters over five innings last Sunday but came away with a no decision. As the de facto Sunday starter (Heller has repeatedly mentioned shoulder soreness for Mathews), Mathews’ 1.32 ERA ranks third in the conference and second among starting pitchers, only behind Illinois southpaw Kevin Duchene. Expected to start for Northwestern is the much traveled TBD, who Hawkeye hitters have beaten numerous times in 2015.

We'll post updates for the games in the comments here.