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The Hawkeye baseball team continues to fight for a Big Ten title at home this weekend against a very dangerous neighbor.

Aaaaaaaggggghhhh!!! Nightmare Fuel!
Aaaaaaaggggghhhh!!! Nightmare Fuel!
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa (ranked #18 by Baseball America) currently sits in second place in the Big Ten baseball standings, a half game behind No. 9 Illinois. Ohio State and No. 21 Maryland, within striking distance of Iowa at 1.5 and 2.5 games out of first, respectively, play Northwestern and Purdue (combined B1G record 5-19) this weekend, so Iowa likely needs to win its series this weekend to maintain second place, even in a tie. Illinois is at Penn State (2-9 in conference), so the same goes for keeping up with--or not losing too much ground to--the Illini.

Iowa's opponent this weekend, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, sit at seventh place in the conference with a 6-6 record. But a glimpse at the standings doesn't really do Nebraska justice. First, their four conference opponents (Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio State) have a combined 32-22 conference record overall, and are 26-16 outside of playing the Cornhsukers, which, winning-percentage-wise (0.619), would place fifth in the conference. Also, Nebraska brings in a 30-13 record overall, including series wins over BYU, Florida Gulf Coast (sweep), then-No. 16 Texas (also a sweep), and a two-game split with Cal State-Fullerton.

Another thing to note is Nebraska's RPI, at 17th in the nation. This series may be one of Iowa's (No. 34 RPI) last chances to boost its figure, and chances at an at-large NCAA tournament berth. The Hawkeyes do not play Ohio State (No. 13 RPI) or Illinois (No. 21 RPI) in the regular season. Also, Indiana, the Hawkeyes' early marquee sweep victim, is crashing, at No. 63 in RPI, and Iowa's remaining schedule (No. 75 Michigan, No. 116 Minnesota, No. 179 Rutgers, No. 213 Sacramento State, and No. 253 Western Illinois) does it no favors.

The Comparison

Prepare for some low-scoring ball this weekend. Like Iowa, the Cornhuskers largely lack in .300 hitters and home run power. That said, Nebraska does feature more gap power than Iowa, and a few more players proven capable of going deep, even if not frequently.

IOWA Lineup Avg. HR RBI Other NEBRASKA Lineup Avg. HR RBI Other
Eric Toole, CF .325 0 15 20/25 SB/ATT Ryan Boldt, CF .321 1 16 .423 OBP
Jake Mangler, 2B .314 0 28 0.995 Fld.% Jake Placzek, 2B .236 1 9 .364 OBP
Tyler Peyton, P/1B .363 0 19 0.882 OPS Blake Headley, 3B .277 1 33 15 2B
Dan Potempa, DH .241 1 7 3 2B Tanner Lubach, C .293 3 19 .353 OBP
Kris Goodman, LF .258 3 16 4 3B Ben Miller, DH .294 2 30 11 2B
Joel Booker, RF .240 2 20 3 OF Assists Austin Darby, RF .274 1 19 8 SAC
Jimmy Frankos, C .156 0 2 5 GIDP Jake Meyers, LF .250 0 2 12 AB
Nick Roscetti, SS .292 1 14 6 SAC Scott Schreiber, 1B .248 2 15 2 3B
Nick Day, 3B .313 2 11 0.834 OPS Wes Edrington, SS .178 1 2 45 AB
IOWA Rotation W-L ERA oppAvg Other NEBRASKA Rotation W-L ERA oppAvg Other
Tyler Peyton 4-3 2.83 .250 0 oppHR Chance Sinclair 5-5 3.30 .282 1.9 BB/9
Blake Hickman 6-1 2.56 .206 1.17 WHIP Kyle Kubat 4-2 2.19 .256 1.4 BB/9
Calvin Mathews 3-1 2.01 .240 1.30 WHIP Derek Burkamper 4-1 3.65 .241 4 oppHR
IOWA Bullpen W-L ERA oppAvg Other NEBRASKA Bullpen W-L ERA oppAvg Other
Connor Grant 1-1 3.49 .181 6.0 BB/9 Jeff Chesnut 5-0 1.85 .180 0.76 WHIP
Ryan Erickson 3-0 1.96 .250 .284 oppSlg Jake Meyers 3-1 2.96 .245 2 oppHR
Luke Vandermaten 2-0 0.39 .222 2 SV Josh Roeder 1-0 2.25 .179 12 SV

Nebraska is pretty fierce pitching-wise, but luckily Iowa can go toe-to-toe with them there. Each of Iowa's three starters allows a lower batting average than his Nebraska counterpart, but the Husker starters--especially Sinclair and Kubat at the top--appear to have great control, which may require Iowa, a small-ball team on offense, to string together a lot of hits to get any sort of run production. Also, these games may be decided in the early innings, as both teams have at least a pair (Erickson-Vandermaten for Iowa, and Chesnut-Roeder for Nebraska) of totally lights-out relievers.

Game One Matchup and Info

Day/Time and Location: TODAY, April 24, 4:05 P.M. CT, Duane Banks Field in da IC

Media: Gametracker and possibly streaming audio (see here)

Pitching Probables: Peyton (4-3, 2.83) v. Sinclair (5-5, 3.30)

Weather: not greeeaaaat (meaning cloudy, around 50F, with a 20-50% chance of rain)

What to Watch for: Like I said above, the early innings may decide this one. Iowa's bats have been slow to start of late, needing ninth-inning comebacks to get to extras against Northern Illinois on Wednesday, and to beat Northwestern a week ago. The bats never came to life in the jNW series finale. Peyton will either need to be really sharp early, or Iowa will need to discover some early offensive, like in the middle jNW game last week. Absent that, the Hawkeyes may need a Saturday-Sunday rally.

We're doing something a little different this weekend. This will be the game one open thread. Usual gamethread rules apply. No politics, porn, religion, or incivility; just baseball, son. I'll recap this one tomorrow morning and get a fresh thread going for game two.