WHO: Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-11, 10-2 Big Ten)
- Friday, April 19th – 6:05 PM CT
- Saturday, April 20th – 2:05 PM CT
- Sunday, April 21st – 1:05 PM CT
After being swept by Indiana in their Big Ten opener, Iowa has won 7 of their last 9 conference games and moved into a tie for 4th with Minnesota. Iowa took 2 of 3 from Purdue last weekend, winning game one 10-4, losing game two 9-5, and winning game three 6-3. They also beat Northern Illinois 8-6 on Tuesday after trailing 6-4 heading into the bottom of the 7th inning.
Iowa now gets to play Nebraska in what will probably be the biggest series of the year for the Hawkeyes. The Cornhuskers roll into town on Friday as the top-ranked team in the Big Ten. They are 10-2 in Big Ten play and have won eight of their last ten games. The Huskers have spent most of the conference season beating up on the worst teams in the league; they swept Michigan State (last place), Penn State (2nd to last), and Purdue (9th). They lost 2 out of 3 games to Minnesota, the only semi-competent team that have played so far.
At the Plate
Nebraska averages 6.8 runs a game and are led by Sophomore Aaron Palensky. Palensky is hitting .341, 6th best in the Big Ten. Palensky leads Nebraska in hits and is tied for second in the Big Ten with 11 doubles. Center fielder Joe Acker is hitting .322, but besides those two Nebraska does not have another player hitting over .290.
Iowa will throw their usual trio once again, which is impressive as we hit the halfway point in the season. After the pitching staff battled injuries last season, McDonald, Baumann, and Judkins have stayed healthy and have not missed a start. McDonald will get the call in game one, he has gone six innings or more in all four of his Big Ten starts this season and Iowa has won his last three. Game two starter Cam Baumann has been a bit of a roller coaster on the mound. He is 2-2 in his last four starts, striking out 13 and giving up 12 runs. Grant Judkins will get the ball in game three, he gave up three runs in 7.2 innings against Purdue last weekend. His 1.95 ERA currently ranks 4th in the Big Ten.
Iowa closer Grant Leonard is second in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation with nine saves. He has not given up a run since the series at Indiana. He has an ERA of 1.45 and 20 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched.
On the Mound
The Husker pitching staff is led by Big Ten ERA leader Matt Waldron. Waldron has a stellar 1.77 ERA and is 5-0 on the year. Waldron will fill up the strike zone up, he averages less than 1 walk per nine innings and has struck out 50 batters. Nebraska will also throw Nate Fisher, who is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Fisher is currently holding opposing teams to a .195 batting average. The final starter for Nebraska will be Reece Eddings, who has a 4.37 ERA.
Austin Martin's recent slump, going 2-20 over the last six games, was hopefully ended against Northern Illinois. In Tuesday's game, he went 3-5 with 2 RBIs. He now has a .339 batting average, ninth best in the Big Ten. Tanner Wetrich comes into this weekend carrying a seven-game hitting streak. During that span he is 11-23 with three home runs, eight runs scored, and seven RBIs.
Chris Whelan leads the team with a .459 on-base percentage, in part thanks to his ability to get hit by pitches. Whelan has been hit nine times this season, third most in the conference. He has also walked 28 times, which is third-most in the Big Ten as well.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
This is a huge weekend for Iowa, as a series win would inch them closer to the top of the conference with some very winnable games left at the end of the season. Also, it is scientifically proven that life is better when Iowa beats Nebraska in something.
Iowa is 12-3 at home this season; it sure would be great to be 15-3 on Sunday night. I think it is also worth noting that Iowa men’s sports have owned Nebraska this year. The football team won 31-28, basketball split their series with the Huskers, but Iowa dominated the second game until, well...let’s just not talk about it, and the Iowa wrestling team beat Nebraska 20-13. It is safe to say that Iowa owns Nebraska, and a sweep this weekend would really shut the fans in Lincoln up (lol just kidding, that will never happen #FROSTSZN)
We'll post updates in the comments below, but feel free to join in as well.