WHO: Iowa Hawkeyes (16-11, 3-3 B1G) vs Rutgers (8-17, 1-2 B1G)
- Friday, April 5th -- 6:05 PM CT
- Saturday, April 6th – 2:05 PM CT
- Sunday, April 7th – 12:05 PM CT
WHERE: Iowa City, Iowa
TV: BTN (Sunday only)
STREAMING: BTN Plus ($) for Friday/Saturday, BTN2Go for Sunday
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (check local listings), Hawkeye All Access ($), TuneIn Radio (free)
The Hawkeyes are home again this weekend to take on the mighty Rutgers Scarlet Knights in what should be an easy series. I say should be because after sweeping 23rd ranked Illinois last weekend, the Hawks had some issues this week.
On Tuesday, Iowa needed a run in the 8th inning against NAIA foe Clark University to squeak out a 3-2 win. On Wednesday they were completely run over on by Illinois State in an 11-6 loss. The 11-6 score is a bit deceiving, as the Redbirds, who had lost seven of their last eight games, led 11-3 heading into the bottom of the 9th. Iowa tried to crawl back into the game in the final inning, as Chris Whelan launched a three-run homer, but it was not to be. Iowa has won after trailing in nine games this year, but couldn’t do it again on Wednesday. The loss ended Iowa’s nine-game home win streak, moving them to 9-2 at home.
Rutgers enters the series 1-2 in Big Ten play after their conference opener with Ohio State last weekend. They are 8-17 overall and have not won more than one game in a weekend series yet.
At the Plate
If you like hitting, please hide your eyes when Rutgers is at the plate. Of their nine players with 50 or more at-bats this season, Rutgers only has two players hitting over .235. Center fielder Mike Nyisztor leads the team in hits and doubles while Tim Dezzi leads the team in batting average (.322). Infielder Kevin Welsh was a preseason All Big 10 honoree but hasn’t done a whole lot this year. He is hitting .233 through his first 90 at-bats.
The Iowa pitching staff was phenomenal against Illinois last weekend, holding them to just six runs in three games, including eight innings of shutout ball from the bullpen. Starting pitcher (and pinch-hitter extraordinaire) Grant Judkins has continued to dazzle, and he currently ranks 4th in the Big Ten with an ERA of 1.69.
On the Mound
The Rutgers pitching staff is led by sophomore Harry Rutkowski, he currently has a 2.51 ERA in 43 innings pitched. He has struck out 42 batters and only issued 11 walks. Rutgers will throw Tommy Genuario in game two, which will only be his second start of the season. Tevin Murray will start game three, he has a 5.08 ERA.
Talking more about Rutgers pitching sounds like a terrible idea, so let’s focus on the Iowa bats. Since the start of Big Ten play, Austin Martin has been on an absolute tear. He is 14 for his last 29 and has raised his batting average to .370, 3rd best in the Big Ten. He leads the team in hits (34), is second on the team in RBIs (16), has the second most home runs (2), and has only struck out 11 times.
Ben Norman has reached base in 15 straight games and leads the team with 17 RBIs. Izaya Fullard had his 9-game hitting streak snapped against Illinois State after he went 0-1. He is hitting .289, good for second best on the team (minimum 50 ABs).
Finally, after getting a hit in every game of the series vs Illinois, Connor McCaffery went 1-8 vs Clarke University and Illinois State. Through his first 29 at-bats this year he is hitting .276 with 13 strikeouts and 5 walks.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
The next two weekends give Iowa a great chance to move up in the Big Ten standings. The top eight teams in the conference make the tournament, so it would be nice to put some distance between themselves and the 8th spot.
Rutgers is one of the worst teams in the league and Purdue has struggled to a 10-17 record after making it to an NCAA regional last season. That said, the Boilermakers are off to a 4-1 start in Big Ten play so maybe they are figuring things out.
If Iowa can win five out of six games over the next two weekends and be 8-4 in Big Ten play heading into their match-up with Nebraska I think everyone would be thrilled. Outside of the Nebraska series, Iowa has gone through the toughest part of their schedule with Indiana and Illinois out of the way. Maryland and Ohio State are both hanging around the .500 mark and Michigan State couldn’t beat their way out of a wet paper bag.
We will post series updates in the comments, but feel free to join in too.