WHO: Iowa Hawkeyes (27-16, 11-7 B1G) vs #18 UC Irvine (28-11, 10-5 BIG WEST)
Friday, May 3rd – 6:05 PM CT
Saturday, May 4th – 2:05 PM CT
Sunday, May 5th – 1:05 PM CT
The Iowa Hawkeyes, winners of 10 of their last 12 games, get the weekend off from Big Ten play and instead get to battle with the UC Irvine Anteaters. The Anteaters have an awesome name, and a pretty good baseball team as well. They are currently ranked 18th in the country and are 7-3 in their last ten games.
Iowa is coming off of a 2-1 weekend where they let the chance for a sweep slip away. The Hawkeyes struggled for a bit in their midweek game vs Western Illinois but won 8-7, which is all that matters at this point. They are still 4th in the Big Ten standings and will need a strong finish if they want to reach their third regional birth in the last five years. For a full look at their postseason chances, check out this article from Hawk Central.
AT THE PLATE
The Anteater bats shouldn’t scare Iowa, which is good because their pitching staff will. The Anteaters are led by Brandon Lewis, who is hitting .348. He also leads the team with 12 home runs, 45 RBIs, and he has reached base safely in 36 straight games. Outside of Lewis, the Anteater line up is very manageable. Center fielder Mikey Filia is second on the team with 25 RBIs but is only hitting .220. Second baseman Brendan Brooks has six home runs on the year but has a batting average of .198. As a team, the Anteaters are hitting .252.
Cole McDonald, who is 4-3 with a 3.66 ERA, was rock solid against Ohio State. He has turned it on after struggling to start the season, and the Hawkeyes have won the last five games that he has started. Left-hander Cam Baumann will take a 3-2 record and a 4.96 ERA into his start in game 2. He hasn’t gone more than five innings in his last three starts. Game 3 will belong to Grant Judkins, who for the first time this season will be starting a game with an ERA over 2.00. Iowa has lost three of the last four games that Judkins has started. Judkins has gone five innings or more in all 11 of his starts this season and has not given up more than three earned runs.
ON THE MOUND
The Anteaters will bring one of the best starting rotations in the country to Iowa City this weekend. All three starters have an ERA below 3.00 and the team has thrown seven shutouts this year. The usual three starters for Irvine, Tanner Brubaker, Andre Pallante, and Trenton Denholm have struck out 174 batters while walking just 55. The Anteaters also have one of the best closers in the country. Taylor Rashi has 11 saves on the year and has given up ZERO (0) runs in 26 innings while striking out 36. This guy is really, really good, and in my expert opinion, Iowa should get the lead going into the 8th inning if they want to win any games this weekend.
Iowa will need to get the bats going this weekend, and hopefully, Zeb Adreon will continue to lead the charge. Adreon was named the Big Ten Player of the Week after he hit .556 last week. Brandon Sherr was also named Big Ten freshman of the week following his breakout weekend vs Ohio State. Sherr did not play at all during the Nebraska series but went 9-18 in starts against Milwaukee, Ohio State, and Western Illinois. Ben Norman still has the RBI lead for the Hawks with 30, but Austin Martin is on his tail with 26. Martin has fallen off of his torrid pace at the plate, and his average is down to .316 after being in the top ten in the conference for most of the season. Chris Whelan continues to get on base at an incredible rate, as his on-base percentage is .462 and he has walked 31 times on the year.
BONUS! Here's a fun all-access video of the Iowa baseball team:
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