WHO: #7 seed Ohio State Buckeyes (35-18, 13-11)
WHERE: Target Field; Minneapolis, MN
WHEN: 1 PM CT (approximately)
HOW TO WATCH: BTN Plus ($) or GameTracker
HOW TO LISTEN: 800 AM KXIC or 1360 AM KMJM or Hawkeye All-Access
RHP Tyler Peyton (6-4, 3.32 ERA) for Iowa vs RHP Travis Lakins (4-4, 3.99 ERA) for OSU
Peyton struggled in his last outing, giving 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks (striking out just one batter) in 3.2 innings of work against Rutgers. Lakins also had a rough go in his last appearance, giving up 7 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and 1 walk (against three strikeouts) in 6.0 innings against Indiana.
Ohio State's best hitter this season has been OF Pat Porter, a first team All-Big Ten selection who raked this year: .332 BA, .564 SLG, 10 HR (23 extra-base hits total), 48 RBI, and 42 runs scored. Don't give him something that he can hit. Troy Montgomery posted a .320 BA with a .503 SLG, with 4 HR and 27 RBI, but his biggest threat may be on the base paths -- he swiped 35 bases (in 40 attempts) and scored a team-high 54 runs. Trace Dempsey has been OSU's top reliever this season, posting 7 saves with a 3.74 ERA, a 31-8 K-BB ratio, and a .224 opponent BA. But it's likely that Ohio State will tape any and all available pitchers if things go sideways for Lakins in this game.
if Iowa wins today, Peyton will likely play a big part in that win -- not only is the starting pitcher, but he's also Iowa's best hitter (.360 BA, .439 SLG, .449 OBP, 11 extra base hits, 28 RBI). Eric Toole (.321 BA, .393 SLG, .389 OBP, team-high 72 hits, 39 runs scored, 27 SB) and Nick Roscetti (.314 BA, .366 SLG, .368 OBP, 54 hits) are usually the two guys who get Iowa's offense going. Jake Mangler (.301 BA, .361 SLG, .389 OBP, team-high 33 RBI) and Kris Goodman (.279 BA, .437 SLG, .379 OBP, team-high 2B and 3 HR) are two guys Iowa relies on to score guys.
Luke Vandermaten (0.77 ERA in 35 IP, 19-11 K-BB ratio, .202 opponent BA), Nick Hibbing (1.67 ERA in 37.2 IP, 32-2 K-BB ratio, .187 opponent BA), and Ryan Erickson (1.93 ERA, 26-17 K-BB ratio, .255 opponent BA) have been absolute dynamite out of the bullpen for Iowa this year and I doubt Heller will hesitate to turn to them if Peyton doesn't have his best stuff today.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
For Iowa, a chance to rebound from last weekend's disappointing series loss at Rutgers and improve their odds of hosting an NCAA regional next week. It looks like they're presently on the outside looking in, but a good showing in Minneapolis could get them on the right side of the scenario. For their part, Hawkeye players and coaches seem to think that they need to win 2-3 games to have a shot to host an NCAA regional, which sounds about right. Step one: beat Ohio State today.
For Ohio State, possibly their NCAA Tournament lives. The Buckeyes were viewed as comfortably in the Field of 64 a few weeks ago... but that was before they ended the year on a 1-8 streak in B1G play (albeit against red-hot Illinois and Indiana teams and a quality Maryland club -- not exactly weak competition), although they did offset those B1G losses with three non-conference wins during that stretch (including a 20-7 bludgeoning of Miami (OH)). They're still being viewed as a tourney team, but they seem to be more of a bubble team than a sure thing now. They could use a few wins in the Big Ten Tournament today to shore up their tournament standing.
Follow along with all the action in the comments. The usual rules apply.