Iowa vs Nebraska: Preview + Game Thread

By Jeremy Karll on April 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Safe!

@UIBaseball

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WHO: Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-16, 2-6, RPI: 101)
WHEN: 
Friday, April 13 -- 2:00 PM CT
Friday, April 13 -- 6:00 PM CT
Sunday, April 15 -- 1:00 PM CT
WHERE: Hawks Field (Lincoln, Nebraska)
TV: Sunday on ESPNU
STREAMING: BTN Plus
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio

At this point, it would be more surprising if Iowa baseball (20-10, 5-3) didn't have a doubleheader. The Hawkeyes are scheduled for their fourth doubleheader in the past five weekends -- Iowa is 4-2 in such games. Despite a tough schedule, Iowa is off to a good start in conference play, helping its RPI rise to 34. However, it's still one of the First Four Out of the NCAA Tournament per Baseball America. In most years, winning a series in Lincoln would be enough to push Iowa over the hump, but this is not one of those years. Nebraska currently isn't a top-100 RPI team and is in line to win fewer than 30 games for the first time since 2013. In fact, the Huskers have finished below .500 just once since 2010, which shows the surprising struggles this team has faced this season. And it hasn't gotten better since conference play started, as Nebraska is just 3-7 in its last 10 games. Winning on the road in the Big Ten isn't easy, but this isn't a series Iowa can afford to lose as a bubble team.

AT THE PLATE

Player BA OBP AB AB H BB R RBI HR
C Tyler Cropley .364 .471 .564 110 40 16 22 27 3
1B Austin Guzzo .265 .405 .412 68 18 14 17 10 2
2B Mitchell Boe .256 .326 .341 82 21 9 12 9 0
SS Kyle Crowl .262 .383 .430 107 28 16 23 21 4
3B Lorenzo Elion .317 .344 .439 82 26 2 9 21 2
RF Robert Nuestrom .345 .415 .521 119 41 14 27 17 5
CF Justin Jenkins .268 .430 .352 71 19 19 12 13 1
LF Ben Norman .152 .269 .258 66 10 7 5 8 0
DH Chris Whelan .344 .417 .422 64 22 6 17 27 1

Iowa is coming off its best offensive showing of the season, as Lorenzo Elion hit for the cycle and tied Iowa's single-game hits record, and Tyler Cropley tied Iowa's single-game doubles record. However, Iowa's offense struggled in two of three games last weekend against Ohio State. In fact, Iowa has been held to five or fewer runs in five of eight Big Ten games this season. Also, Iowa has started to mix up its lineup in recent weeks. Elion, Matt Hoeg and Austin Guzzo split time at first and third base, and Tanner Wetrich and Grant Judkins played over Ben Norman at times last weekend in left field. That said, Hoeg (3B), Guzzo (1B) and Norman (LF) consistently play at the end of games for defensive purposes.

Despite not ranking top-five in the Big Ten in batting average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage, Nebraska still is third in runs scored. However, the Huskers have only scored more than five runs twice in conference play. Scott Schreiber has been Nebraska's best hitter in 2018, slashing .416/.486/.760 with 11 homers (.636/.684/1.394 in conference play) -- second in the Big Ten in every category. He also leads the Big Ten in hits (52), and Nebraska has done a good job of driving him in as he leads the conference in runs (36), as well. Jesse Wilkening and Zac Repinski are Nebraska's only other hitters batting above .270 this season, though its top-six hitters all have on-base percentages above .349. Simply put, Nebraska's offense doesn't have as much depth as other Big Ten teams and can be prone to strikeouts at times.

Team Friday Saturday Sunday
Iowa LHP Nick Allgeyer (3-3, 2.34 ERA) RHP Brady Schanuel (5-3, 4.14 ERA) RHP Cole McDonald (2-1, 3.19 ERA)
Nebraska RHP Luis Alvarado (2-3, 3.00 ERA) RHP Matt Waldron (2-2, 3.94 ERA) RHP Matt Warren (3-2, 5.60 ERA)

In conference play, Iowa's starting pitching has seven quality starts in eight games, including Cole McDonald only allowing three earned runs in 12.1 innings. McDonald has also held two of the best offenses in the conference to a .182 batting average. The biggest improvement has been Iowa's bullpen, though. Nick Nelsen and Grant Leonard have combined for seven shutout innings in Big Ten play, and Zach Daniels and Grant Judkins have allowed just three runs in 15 innings. The improved bullpen has helped Iowa hold Big Ten opponents to 4.1 runs per game.

Nebraska's pitching staff has been hit-or-miss this season, allowing nine or more runs 10 times, including in three of their past four games. Luis Alvarado is Nebraska's ace pitcher, though his ERA rose to 3.78 in three Big Ten starts due to walking eight batters in 16.2 innings. Matt Waldron has improved throughout the season, but Iowa should see some hittable pitches as opponents own a .365 batting average against him this season. However, he has a solid 13:1 strikeout:walk ratio in 17 Big Ten innings. Jake Hohensee is Nebraska's shutdown closer, owning a 0.73 ERA. But after he and Zack Engelken (1.54 ERA), Nebraska doesn't have another reliever with an ERA under 4.00, which leaves them vulnerable later in games when Iowa's offense usually gets better.

We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to join in, too. 

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