WHO: Oklahoma State Cowboys (27-15-1 overall, 15-3 B12, RPI: 26)
Friday, May 4 -- 6:05 PM CT
Saturday, May 5 -- 2:05 PM CT
Sunday, May 6 -- 12:05 PM CT
WHERE: Duane Banks Field (Iowa City, Iowa)
STREAMING: BTN Plus
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio
This weekend is Iowa's final regular season chance to add to its NCAA Tournament resume. Earlier this week, both I and Dargan Southard wrote about what Iowa needed to do to make the NCAA Tournament, and it's clear the Oklahoma State series will have huge implications on the Hawkeyes' chances. Despite a tough conference schedule, Iowa is among the Last Five In, according to D1Baseball, and the first team out of the tournament, per Baseball America. Oklahoma State's seeding is even more controversial, as D1B has them hosting a regional but BA says the Cowboys are only a 3-seed. Despite the seeding dispute, Oklahoma State comes to Iowa City as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning five straight weekend series and seven of its last eight games. Surprisingly, Oral Roberts is the only team to beat the Cowboys over the past two weeks, having done so twice.
AT THE PLATE
|C Tyler Cropley||.375||.473||.638||152||57||22||34||38||8|
|1B Austin Guzzo||.265||.413||.422||83||22||18||29||12||3|
|2B Mitchell Boe||.252||.321||.348||115||29||12||15||19||1|
|SS Kyle Crowl||.245||.363||.415||147||36||20||33||26||6|
|3B Matt Hoeg||.257||.338||.363||113||29||13||14||17||2|
|RF Robert Neustrom||.321||.383||.527||165||53||16||34||26||8|
|CF Justin Jenkins||.236||.381||.311||106||25||21||19||16||1|
|LF Tanner Wetrich||.259||.350||,382||68||17||9||14||10||1|
|DH Chris Whelan||.321||.393||.459||109||35||9||24||6||4|
Iowa's offense exploded for a season-high 16 runs and seven home runs against Mizzou on Tuesday. Hopefully Iowa doesn't need a similar performance this weekend, even though its offense seems to be hitting its stride after scoring seven runs on Sunday against Michigan, too. Five runs per game might be enough for Iowa to win this series, considering the Hawkeyes are 17-3 this season when scoring at least five runs. Tyler Cropley has been Iowa's best hitter this season, and there's been no exception in B1G play. In conference play, he is currently third in home runs (4), fourth in batting average (.404), on-base percentage (.507) and hits (23), and sixth in slugging percentage (.702).
Oklahoma State's offense is coming off a Bedlam series in which it scored 27 runs against the Sooners and has hit significantly better since conference play started. Only Michael Neustifter and Carson McCusker hit over .300 this season, and their .362 on-base percentage is a little lower than Iowa's .367 OBP. But over 18 conference games, five Cowboys are hitting over .300, including Jon Littell's .377 BA, and they have raised their team OBP to .392. It has shown by Oklahoma State scoring at least seven runs in 10 of 18 conference games.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
|Iowa||LHP Nick Allgeyer (5-3, 2.18 ERA)||RHP Brady Schanuel (5-6, 5.12 ERA)||TBD|
|Oklahoma State||Joe Lienhard (5-1, 4.10 ERA)||Carson Teel (6-2, 2.86 ERA)||Jonathan Heasley (3-3, 6.63 ERA)|
One of the biggest storylines this weekend will be who starts on Sunday after Cole McDonald left Sunday's game with a potential elbow injury.
— Dargan Southard (@Dargan_Southard) May 1, 2018
Trenton Wallace was the likely choice, especially after a strong start against Mizzou, but he left Tuesday's game with an apparent hand injury. It's unknown whether Wallace will be able to pitch this weekend, leaving Iowa with many unproven possibilities. Jack Dreyer (5.74 ERA) started against Missouri State earlier in the year but hasn't played much since, Grant Judkins (5.11) started against Loras and has been solid in a long relief role this season, and Derek Lieurance (4.76 ERA) and Ben Probst (4.50) haven't started a college game but are intriguing freshman options, nonetheless. Another potential option is Zach Daniels, assuming he doesn't pitch in the first two games of the series. He pitched four shutout innings against Michigan on Sunday, though his main role should stay as Iowa's closer, especially after seeing how much Iowa's bullpen struggled without him on Tuesday.
Five Oklahoma State pitchers have started at least four games, but Oklahoma State has settled on its current weekend rotation in conference play. Joe Lienhard has been the Cowboys best starter, owning a 3.37 ERA over 34.2 innings in six starts. Surprisingly, Jonathan Heasley has started the most games for the Cowboys this season (11), despite an underwhelming 6.63 ERA. However, he has allowed just four earned runs in his last 11 innings. Iowa's offense will have plenty of opportunities to force the Cowboys to go to their bullpen. While their starters have five quality starts in their last six B12 games, they have all been hit hard at times. In Big 12 play, Lienhard allowed four runs in four innings twice, Carson Teel gave up six earned runs in one inning against West Virginia and TCU scored six runs in two innings against Heasley earlier this season. That said, Oklahoma State has a fantastic bullpen, as no reliever with at least five IP has an ERA above 3.50 in Big 12 play, but it's evident that their starters are vulnerable to poor starts.
We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to join in, too.