It's been a dizzying, dazzling ride for Iowa baseball so far this year, and the Hawkeyes close out their regular-season home slate this weekend, with a three game series starting tonight against Minnesota. Iowa's RPI is in the low 20s, and NCAA projections uniformly have them as a solid regional #2 seed, possibly a #1. So starting this weekend, Iowa needs to take care of business to get into the tourney seeding clubhouse. They likely need a sweep if they want to have a shot at the B1G regular-season crown next weekend, as they start this one 2.5 games behind Illinois.
The Golden Gophers have not had a stellar campaign. Their record is 19-26 overall, and at 7-11 in B1G play, they currently occupy ninth place, and are outside looking in for the conference tournament. I said on the first-ever Black Heart Gold Baseball Podcast a few days ago that Minnesota traditionally pitches very well. I can cop to having not at that point scouted this year's Gophers, who have a 5.35 team ERA (6.11 in B1G games...zoinks!). Only one starter, game one hurler Ben Meyer, has a sub-4.50 ERA, and only one other Gopher pitcher period--Matt Fiedler, who has pitched all of 15.1 innings this year--is below 4.00.
Minnesota does have a handful of guys who can rake it, though. Shortstop Michael Handel is the Gophers' offensive Messiah (NO RELIGION; THAT'S A CLASSICAL MUSIC JOKE), batting .331, with 4 HR and 28 RBI, plus six steals in as many tries. Similarly competent is two-way player Fiedler (.306, 2 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 15/19 SB/ATT). Adding twenty-one steals combined are Dan Motl (12) and Connor Schaefbauer (9). So, like Iowa, Minnesota is one-dimensional in the opposite way they were last year. Isn't there a saying like "good pitching beats good hitting"? Hope that holds true the next three days, as it has for both teams so far this year.
Game One Matchup and Info
Day/Time and Location: TODAY, May 8, 6:05 P.M. CT, Duane Banks Field in da IC
Media: BTN Plus streaming video
Pitching Probables: Tyler Peyton, IOWA (5-3, 3.06) v. Ben Meyer (4-4, 3.80)
Weather: High 60s and cloudy at gametime.
What to Watch for: Gopher balls. That's an actual old-school-y term for serving up home runs, which may well be the difference in this series. Iowa has hit only 11 dingers this year to Minnesota's 26. But the Gophers have served up an eye-popping 37, while Hawkeye pitchers have given up only 18. If the Hawks want to take care of business here, they need to keep the ball in the ballpark, and at least maintain their pitching advantage on the power front. The game one starters' home runs allowed? Peyton: 2; Meyer: 7.
This will be the game one open thread. Usual gamethread rules apply. No politics, porn, religion, or incivility. We'll try to recap this one tomorrow morning and get a fresh thread going for game two.