WHO: Ohio State Buckeyes (19-8, 2-1, RPI: 60)
Saturday, April 7 -- 1:05 PM CT
Saturday, April 7 -- 4:30 PM CT
Sunday, April 8 -- TBD
WHERE: Duane Banks Field (Iowa City, Iowa)
STREAMING: BTN Plus
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio
Cold weather has already changed the schedule twice for this weekend's series, but as of now, Iowa will play its third doubleheader in four weeks. They split a pair against Indiana and swept Evansville in its previous doubleheaders this season. After winning a series against then-No. 25 Illinois, Iowa's RPI jumped to 40 and was included in D1Baseball's mid-season NCAA Tournament projection and among the First Four Out in Baseball America's. Ohio State hasn't received as much recognition, though it's still been a nice bounce back season for the Buckeyes. After winning the Big Ten Tournament title game over Iowa in 2016, they went just 22-34 last season. That said, the Buckeyes have had a fairly easy schedule (141 SOS to Iowa's 57) and don't have many quality wins. Still, Ohio State is a formidable opponent and would be a quality series win, especially since it would help Iowa stay above .500 in conference play.
AT THE PLATE
|C Tyler Cropley||.351||.466||.553||94||33||16||18||24||3|
|1B Austin Guzzo||.270||.378||.429||63||17||10||14||9||2|
|2B Mitchell Boe||.246||.321||.319||69||17||8||10||6||0|
|SS Kyle Crowl||.268||.387||.443||26||97||14||21||19||4|
|3B Matt Hoeg||.250||.323||.298||84||21||9||9||12||1|
|RF Robert Neustrom||.343||.412||.533||105||36||12||25||16||5|
|CF Justin Jenkins||.250||.403||.333||60||15||14||9||11||1|
|LF Ben Norman||.161||.257||.274||62||10||5||5||7||0|
|DH Chris Whelan||.373||.448||.431||51||19||6||15||1||1|
After a couple of weeks of sparse playing time, Lorenzo Elion (.297/.333/.313) and Tanner Wetrich (.278/.426/.500) are starting to poke their heads back into the lineup. It makes sense if their defensive skills have improved, especially considering Matt Hoeg and Ben Norman's inconsistency at the plate. Elion started two games against Illinois and the mid-week game against Grand View, going 4-for-11 with five RBI, while Wetrich went 2-for-6 with a home run and four RBI at Illinois last weekend. They combined for one error in the past week, too. With the way Iowa's starters have thrown this season, trading defense for offense might not be a terrible idea, especially since Hoeg and Norman would likely come in late in games as defensive substitutions.
A week after facing a high-powered Illinois offense, Iowa faces another top-offense in the conference in Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead the conference with a .309 batting average and are third in doubles (53) and home runs (24). They're led by Noah McGowan, who is hitting .411/.480/.710 with six homers and 37 RBI. Only National Player of the Year favorite Bren Spillane has a better batting average, more RBI and doubles than McGowan in the Big Ten. However, Ohio State has consistent bats up-and-down their lineup, as they have four more hitters hitting above .333 and another hitting .289. Also, no Buckeye with at least 75 at-bats is hitting below .260. Dominic Canzone (.381/.456/.542) is also worth keeping an eye on, as he is fifth in batting average and leads the conference in hits and runs.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
|Iowa||LHP Nick Allgeyer (3-2, 2.45 ERA)||RHP Brady Schanuel (4-3, 4.06 ERA)||RHP Cole McDonald (2-1, 3.52 ERA)|
|Ohio St.||LHP Connor Curlis (4-1, 3.51 ERA)||RHP Ryan Feltner (3-1, 5.18 ERA)||RHP Adam Niemeyer (2-2, 5.85 ERA)|
Despite facing a very good Illinois offense, Iowa's starting rotation proved why it's one of the best in the country. Nick Allgeyer and Cole McDonald combined to throw 12.2 innings, while allowing only five earned runs (seven total). Brady Schanuel had the worst outing of his Iowa career, though, allowing six earned runs in two innings. After Ball State scored six runs in 3.1 innings against him earlier this season, he allowed just two earned runs over his next four starts (22 innings). Iowa will need a similar bounce back this time if it wants to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Also, other than the 13-12 shootout last Saturday, Iowa's bullpen shutout Illinois for 5.1 innings. The relievers put themselves in tough spots, but never broke, fighting the cold and a ball to the face in Grant Leonard's case.
When you take 2 of 3 from a top 25 team in the country and realize you have an exam on Monday pic.twitter.com/967GB9WfqY
— UI Baseball Managers (@UIBASEManagers) April 2, 2018
Even though two of Ohio State's starters have a 5.00+ ERA, they have each thrown at least five innings while allowing three or fewer runs in the Buckeyes' past six weekend starts. It helps that the Buckeyes walk the second-fewest batters in the conference and 33rd-fewest in the nation. Connor Curtis is also second in the conference with 45 strikeouts, helping Ohio State rank third in the Big Ten as a team. Of course, Ohio State's pitching staff has been prone to bad games, too, such as last Sunday against Nebraska when the bullpen allowed 13 runs in the final four innings. It doesn't happen often, though, especially with Seth Kinker (1.82 ERA, 24.2 IP) and Jake Vance (2.51 ERA, 14.1 IP) leading the bullpen. However, their bullpen's track record in Iowa City isn't great after blowing a 9-2 seventh inning lead a year ago, ending with this shot to center.
We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to join in, too.