WHO: Northwestern Wildcats (14-28 overall, 4-17 B1G, RPI: 228)
Friday, May 11 -- 3:30 PM CT
Saturday, May 12 -- 2:00 PM CT
Sunday, May 13 -- 2:00 PM CT
WHERE: Rocky Miller Park (Evanston, Illinois)
TV: Sunday on BTN
STREAMING: BTN Plus
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio
Last weekend's series win over Oklahoma State put Iowa safely into the NCAA Tournament, as Ross broke down earlier this week, while raising its RPI to 49. While Iowa's RPI will drop a little from just taking the field against Northwestern, Iowa needs to avoid losing even a game to help its Big Ten Tournament seeding, which I wrote about earlier this week, and to not undo its hard work from last week. On paper, Northwestern is, simply put, bad. The Wildcats are a far cry from last year's sub-par team that made it to the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa. Northwestern's only conference wins this season have come from a sweep against Penn State, the worst team in the conference, and a 4-0 win over Maryland. In 15 games against the top-8 teams in the Big Ten, Northwestern is 0-15 and has been outscored 111-41.
AT THE PLATE
|C Tyler Cropley||.383||.490||.654||162||62||27||41||43||9|
|1B Austin Guzzo||.275||.426||.429||91||25||21||24||13||3|
|2B Mitchell Boe||.246||.319||.333||126||31||14||17||20||1|
|SS Kyle Crowl||.255||.381||.420||157||40||23||37||29||6|
|3B Matt Hoeg||.268||.338||.378||127||34||13||16||25||2|
|RF Robert Neustrom||.333||.392||.578||180||60||17||39||32||10|
|CF Justin Jenkins||.234||.387||.306||111||26||22||19||17||1|
|LF Chris Whelan||.333||.420||.467||120||40||12||31||8||4|
|DH Tanner Wetrich||.239||.345||.366||71||17||10||14||11||1|
Iowa's offense is clicking right now, scoring double-digit runs in three of its last four games and at least six runs in each of its last five games. This comes immediately after the Hawkeyes managed five or more runs in two of its previous eight games. The Hawkeyes' offensive surge has been led by Tyler Cropley, who is hitting a ridiculous .404/.507/.702 with four home runs in conference play. No one else on Iowa is hitting higher than Chris Whelan's .257 in conference play, though Whelan and Neustrom each have three home runs. Although, as of late, Matt Hoeg has been one of Iowa's hottest hitters. He has a hit in six of his last eight games, culminating in a .354 batting average. Iowa shouldn't need double-digit runs to beat Northwestern, but it wouldn't hurt to put away the Wildcats early.
Northwestern has been held to under five runs in 25 of its 42 games this season, including in three shutouts. In fact, the Wildcats' season average of 4.7 runs per game drops to just 4.0 runs per contest in conference play. Jack Dunn (.317/.402/.378) is Northwestern's only hitter batting above .300, while Jack Claeys (.293/.352/.463), Alex Erro (.285/.370/.364) and Willie Bourbon (.260/.376/.440) join Dunn as Northwestern's only batters hitting above .250. As a result, the Wildcats are 10th as a team in batting average (.244), and 11th in on-base percentage (.342), slugging percentage (.347) and runs (197). The only offensive category that Northwestern isn't in the bottom-three in is stolen bases, where they rank third with 80. Cropey will be busy behind the plate as three Wildcats have stolen double-digit bases this season and three more have swiped more than five.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
|Iowa||LHP Nick Allgeyer (5-4, 2.71 ERA)||TBA||Jack Dreyer (3-2, 4.79 ERA)|
|Northwestern||Quinn Lavelle (3-5, 4.73 ERA)||RHP Hank Christie (2-5, 5.40 ERA)||TBA|
The good news: Dargan Southard reported that Cole McDonald will miss this week's start but should be ready to start next weekend against Penn State and beyond.
The bad news: Trenton Wallace may have suffered a serious arm injury.
As a result, Iowa's weekend rotation looks very different. Despite Oklahoma State racking up nine hits and seven runs (six earned) against Nick Allgeyer last Friday, he still managed to strikeout nine batters and last six innings, giving Iowa a chance to win. It was a huge effort from Iowa's ace, handling being hit hard for the first time this season extremely well. It's also no surprise that Jack Dreyer will get the nod again after he shined in last Sunday's start -- 5 IP, ER, 2 H, 6 K, 3 BB. However, Saturday's spot, which has been filled by Brady Schanuel all season, is empty, despite there not being injury news on him. Rick Heller could have left it open in case McDonald was able to go, giving a struggling Schanuel the week off. With McDonald ruled out, Schanuel could start and possible re-find his groove against one of the worst offenses in the conference. Another possibility is still giving him the weekend off and going to Grant Judkins, Derek Lieurance, or Ben Probst. I can't see Iowa using Zach Daniels on Saturday, as it would guarantee him out for the rest of the series, but it's still a possibility. Right now, it's a waiting game.
For as bad as Northwestern is on offense, they've been equally as bad on the mound. They have given up the most earned runs (252) in the conference, along with the second most walks (215), wild pitches (51) and is 10th in both doubles (73) and home runs (31). Friday's starter, Quinn Lavelle, has given up nine home runs, which ranks second most in the Big Ten in 2018. Danny Katz and Nick Cauley have each given up four each in 22 and 4.2 innings, respective -- yes, Cauley is averaging almost one HRA per IP. Also, Hank Christie has hit a sophomore slump after a solid freshman campaign, leaving a bad bullpen to pitch a lot of innings. Tommy Bordignon is Northwestern's best reliever, saving five games with a 2.51 ERA. Although, Jack Pagliarini is its only other reliever with an ERA under 4.00 at 3.99, but he has made eight starts and could be Sunday's starter. If he is, then Northwestern's next best reliever is Josh Levy, who owns a 4.91 ERA, though opponents are only hitting .224 against him. Iowa should have plenty of chances to keep its offense hot this series in every inning.
We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to join in, too.