WHO: Penn State Nittany Lions (15-31 overall, 3-18 B1G, RPI: 235)
Thursday, May 17 -- 6:05 PM CT
Friday, May 18 -- 6:05 PM CT
Saturday, May 19 -- 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Duane Banks Field (Iowa City, Iowa)
TV: Sunday on ESPNU
STREAMING: BTN Plus
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneIn Radio
Most people thought Iowa could afford going 6-1 to end the season, but losing a series to Northwestern complicates things for Iowa's postseason hopes. Mounting a late comeback to beat Western Illinois on Tuesday helps Iowa get back on track, but it does little (if anything) for its RPI and postseason hopes. The same is true this weekend against Penn State. As a result of last weekend, Iowa is seventh in the Big Ten standings and just 1.5 games ahead of both Maryland and Michigan State for the final Big Ten Tournament seed. Maryland and Michigan State play Indiana and Ohio State, respectively, so Iowa shouldn't fall out of the BTT, though no one expected two losses last weekend to happen, either, so Iowa certainly can't afford to get complacent.
AT THE PLATE
|C Tyler Copley||.367||.480||.627||177||65||30||42||45||9|
|1B Austin Guzzo||.260||.408||.400||100||26||22||24||13||3|
|2B Mitchell Boe||.259||.338||.338||139||36||16||29||21||1|
|SS Kyle Crowl||.251||.373||.409||171||43||24||38||33||6|
|3B Matt Hoeg||.287||.356||.427||143||41||15||21||28||3|
|RF Robert Neustrom||.325||.390||.567||194||63||21||42||34||11|
|CF Justin Jenkins||.254||.389||.325||126||32||22||21||20||1|
|LF Chris Whelan||.309||.405||.426||136||42||15||33||8||4|
|DH Ben Norman||.204||.312||.312||93||19||11||11||11||0|
Iowa's offense struggled for most of last weekend. The Hawkeyes scored five of their six runs from the seventh inning on in game one and were shutout in game two before exploding for 10 runs in the series finale. The same was true on Tuesday, as Western Illinois held Iowa scoreless through the first four innings. While Iowa's offense has shown the ability to mount comebacks late in games this season, it would lead to a much more relaxing series if it jumped on Penn State early. Despite Iowa's recent offensive struggles, Ben Norman has played well. He is 4-for-6 with three RBI, two runs and a double in the last two games, while hitting 6-for-17 in his last six games with an at-bat. It has led his batting average to rise over .200 for the first time since March 3 when he was hitting .206. Norman becoming a consistent hitter is huge for Iowa given that he also sports an excellent glove.
Penn State is on a hot streak, winning four of its last seven games with a series win over Michigan State a couple of weekends ago. The Nittany Lions are led by Ryan Sloniger (.306/.406/.500), who leads the team in nearly every offensive category. Parker Hendershot, who has started just 27 games, is the only other Nittany Lion with at least 100 at-bats to have an OBP over .400, and Jordan Bowersox's .282 BA is second on the team and the only other one above .250. As a result, Penn State is in the bottom-three in the Big Ten in BA, OBP, slg%, runs, hits, total bases and home runs. That said, Penn State has topped five runs in four of its last five games.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
|Iowa||LHP Nick Allgeyer (5-4, 2.71 ERA)||RHP Cole McDonald (3-1, 3.61 ERA)||LHP Jack Dreyer (4-2, 4.21 ERA)|
|Penn State||RHP Bailey Dees (1-2, 6.26 ERA)||RHP Justin Hagenman (3-6, 4.26 ERA)||LHP Dante Biasi (3-5, 4.89 ERA)|
Iowa welcomes Cole McDonald back after a one-week absence, but the biggest change is Jack Dreyer staying in the rotation over Brady Schanuel. It makes sense considering how well Dreyer has pitched in his last two starts: 10 IP, ER (4 R), 6 H, 12 K, 5 BB. Having a week off before the BTT might help Schanuel from a psychological standpoint, and it gives Dreyer, who will need to pitch well in the postseason for Iowa to make another deep run, more experience. The Hawkeyes have won Dreyer's last two starts by a combined score of 21-10, so hopefully the offense stays hot when he's pitching.
Penn State allows a lot of runs and hits -- their 5.50 ERA is 11th in the B1G and their .273 OBA is 10th -- but they surprisingly are also one of the top strikeout teams, which could spell trouble for an Iowa team that has struck out the fifth-most often among Big Ten teams. While Penn State's fifth-most strikeouts is impressive, they're also tied with Iowa for the most strikeouts looking. Justin Hagenman leads Penn State in this department with 72, which ranks fourth in the conference. Hagenman, Dante Biasi and Bailey Dees, who has made only three starts this season, have been decent starting options for Penn State, though their bullpen has been among the worst in the conference. Mason Mellott's 3.31 ERA is the only ERA under 5.00 in a bullpen that includes four relievers with an ERA over 6.00. Six of their 11 pitchers with double-digit innings have an OBA above .290.
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