After a two-week break, non-revenue sports returned this past week. That said, this upcoming week will have more action as swim & dive returns to action, and track & field and men's gymnastics start their seasons.
Even though Iowa baseball's season is more than a month away -- February 16 vs. Toledo in Florida -- it received good news this weekend. Despite losing key players in the field and to their pitching staff, College Sports Madness ranked Iowa No. 44 in its top-44 pre-season rankings.
There are some significant departures at the plate too. Most notable is Jake Adams, who belted 29 home runs and drove in 72. Mason McCoy is also gone after batting .328. Those were Iowa’s top two hitters last year. Robert Neustrom and Chris Whelan have proven that they can hit for average and power. As juniors those two will provide much of the leadership and consistency at the plate. However, there are plenty of others who can make a big impact. Lorenzo Elion and Kyle Crowl had impressive outings when Iowa represented the United States at the World University Games in Taiwan over the summer. The Big Ten may not have a dominating team this year and expect Iowa to remain right in the mix to take home a regular season title to add to last year’s tournament title.
While the departures of Jake Adams, Mason McCoy, Nick Gallagher, Ryan Erickson, and even C.J. Eldred, get recognition, Josh Martsching remains an undervalued piece to last year's postseason run. Few sites mention his loss, partly because many expect Zach Daniels to become the closer Rick Heller envisioned last season when he named him Iowa's closer to start the season. That is far from a given, though, especially considering Daniels' control issues. Daniels pitched well over the summer, but losing a late-game reliever who can shut out opponents for 2-3 innings will be missed regardless.
That said, Iowa added a key starting pitcher in Brady Schanuel to anchor its starting rotation in 2018. The two-time MLB draftee could be an early selection this season, as he is No. 90 on D1 Baseball's college prospect list. He's not the highest ranked Hawkeye, though, as Robert Neustrom is No. 74. Neustrom enters the season as one of the best all-around outfielders in the conference and will need to play like it if Iowa wants to return to the NCAA Tournament.
There are many questions heading into the season, but Iowa's success over the summer and last season are giving a lot of people hope it can remain one of the better teams in the Big Ten. The recent success under Rick Heller is impossible to ignore, even from a national standpoint. However, one thing is certain: Iowa won't sneak up on anyone in 2018.
No. 20 Iowa started its season against No. 14 Auburn, Iowa State and Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona -- but it was the unranked teams which had the most success. Iowa finished fourth with 193.000 points, as Iowa State took home the title (195.125) followed by Arizona State (194.675) and Auburn (193.950).
Despite finishing last in the team standings, Iowa had six top-five finishes. The Hawkeyes had the most success on floor as it had the best team event score of the night of 48.925. Both gymnasts on the Big Ten preseason watch list, Clair Kaji and Lanie Snyder, finished top-two, respectively, on floor. Kaji scored 9.850 points and Snyder scored 9.825 points.
Kaji also led Iowa on the uneven bars, scoring 9.800. She had success on beam, as well, tying for fourth with Charlotte Sullivan, who took second in all-around (39.075). However, in her debut, Breanna Fitzke led Iowa with a third place finish on beam, barely edging out Kaji and Sullivan by 0.025 points (9.825). On vault, Nikki Youd led Iowa with a fourth-place finish (9.825).
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