WHO: UNLV Rebels (12-2, RPI: 22)
Friday, March 9 -- 8:05 PM CT
Saturday, March 10 -- 4:05 PM CT
Sunday, March 11 -- 3:05 PM CT
WHERE: Earl Wilson Stadium (Las Vegas, NV)
STREAMING: LiveStream (Mountain West Network)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio
Iowa (8-2) has taken at least two games in each of its first three weekend series this season, but it has arguably its toughest test of the season when it travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, to take on the UNLV Rebels this weekend. Despite going 20-36 last season and being picked to finish near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference, UNLV is currently 12-2 with quality wins over top-30 RPI teams in Oregon and Indiana State. That hot start has led to it being ranked No. 23 by Collegiate Baseball. The Rebels are 10-1 at home this season, which includes winning its last seven in a row. That helped UNLV climb to 17 in the RPI rankings, though a loss to CSU Bakersfield on Tuesday made them drop a little.
AT THE PLATE
|C Tyler Cropley||.324||.444||.486||37||12||6||3||12||1|
|1B Matt Hoeg||.276||.436||.276||29||8||8||6||1||0|
|2B Mitchell Boe||.259||.355||.333||27||7||4||6||4||0|
|SS Kyle Crowl||.256||.388||.462||39||10||6||12||8||2|
|3B Lorenzo Elion||.314||.333||.314||35||11||0||3||4||0|
|RF Robert Neustrom||.333||.413||.436||39||13||6||8||4||1|
|CF Justin Jenkins||.222||.400||.222||27||6||7||6||5||0|
|LF Ben Norman||.194||.310||.306||36||7||4||4||5||0|
|DH Tanner Wetrich||.278||.316||.444||18||5||1||4||0||0|
As a team, the Hawkeyes are hitting .266/.385/.349 with four home runs on the season, averaging 6.2 runs per game. However, as I wrote earlier this week, Iowa has relied heavily on walks and singles instead of extra base hits like last season, which explains its low slugging percentage. Still, four players with at least 25 at-bats have an on-base percentage of at least .400 in 2018. Before the season, Chris Whelan targeted this weekend for his return, but it's unclear whether that's still the case. Whelan will join a crowded DH position when he returns from Tommy John surgery. Tanner Wetrich, Brett McCleary, Austin Guzzo and Grant Judkins have each started at least three games this season. Tyler Cropley, who was put on the Johnny Bench Award watch list, looks to continue his hot streak after going 4-for-11 (.363) with a double and three RBI last weekend.
UNLV's strength comes at the plate, as five Rebels with at least 11 starts are hitting over .355, including Kyle Isbel who is hitting .458/.484/.847. As a team, UNLV is hitting .315 with a .380 on-base percentage through its first 14 games, leading to seven or more runs in nine of its 14 games. Iowa, a team which has only given up five home runs this season, will be tested this weekend as the Rebels are top-10 nationally in home runs with 20. That includes three players with at least four home runs, which is how many Iowa has a team this season. Iowa's starting pitching has been a strength this season, but it hasn't faced a team with this much power or talent up-and-down the lineup.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
|Iowa||LHP Nick Allgeyer (1-0, 0.96 ERA)||RHP Brady Schanuel (2-1, 4.50 ERA)||RHP Cole McDonald (1-1, 3.60 ERA)|
|UNLV||RHP Alan Strong (2-0, 3.57 ERA)||RHP Larry Quaney (2-0, 4.41 ERA)||RHP Trevor Horn (2-0, 3.78 ERA)|
Nick Allgeyer has thrown a quality start in two straight starts, and he threw five shutout innings in his "non-quality start" in the season opener. On the season, he has given up only 13 hits, including two extra base hits, and four walks in 18.2 innings of work (0.911 WHIP). Brady Schanuel needs to build on his strong start against UAB (5 IP, 0 ER, 7 K) after two rocky starts to begin the season. That said, he still had control issues last weekend. After a shaky first start for Cole McDonald, he has allowed just one earned run over his last two starts (12 innings), also owning an 8:2 strikeout:walk ratio. Zach Daniels has thrown 8.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen, too.
A big reason for UNLV's turnaround this season has come from a brand new starting rotation. JUCO transfers Alan Strong and Trevor Horn have made the transition to D-I baseball look easy, and Larry Quaney joined its weekend rotation after making 13 relief appearances in 2017. Strong is the Rebels' power pitcher, striking out 20 batters in 17.2 innings. All of UNLV's starting rotation has shown solid control, though, as it has issued just 11 walks in 50.2 combined innings. However, UNLV has given up eight home runs and 18 doubles this season, which could help cure Iowa's extra base hit slump. The Rebels' bullpen has given it mixed results, but Bryan Menendez (1.74 ERA) has been a reliable closer.
We'll try to post some updates in the comments, but feel free to do the same, too.
The usual rules apply.