Iowa baseball weekend preview
The Hawkeyes will welcome Minnesota to Duane Banks Field for a weekend series and they will be looking to sweep the Gophers to avoid big hits to their RPI ranking. Minnesota comes into the series with a 10-20 record and a 1-5 record in Big Ten play. They were able to pick up a Sunday series finale win over Maryland last week, so the Gophers are capable.
Friday Pitching Matchup – rSoph Adam Mazur vs Jr Sam Ireland
Adam Mazur finds himself back in the Friday starting role for the first time in a couple of weeks and it is on the heels of a great outing against Illinois in the second half of the doubleheader last week. Mazur went 6.0 strong innings, holding the Illini to just one run on three hits, while striking out nine and walking just two. On the season, Adam has a 3.33 ERA, including a 0.96 WHIP and 51 strikeouts to 20 walks in 46.0 innings.
Sam Ireland has had a pretty successful season as the Friday ace for the Gophers this season. The junior has posted a 3.53 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, including 51 strikeouts in 41.1 innings of work. His last start came against Maryland and the Terrapins were able to tag Ireland for six runs on seven hits, including three home runs. Despite that, he has had good starts against Rutgers, Air Force, WVU and Northeastern this season. Could be the toughest matchup for the Hawkeyes this weekend.
Saturday Pitching Matchup – GSr Connor Schultz vs Sr JP Massey
Everybody welcome Connor Schultz back to the weekend rotation. Schultz has been out of the rotation since early in the year, as he experienced some shoulder soreness, which caused him to miss a couple of weeks. Since then, the grad transfer from Butler has been working out of the bullpen and he has done a good job. Over his last three outings, Schultz has allowed just one run on one hit, while striking out three and walking just one over 6.0 innings.
Getting Connor back in the starting rotation means that Coach Heller can move Dylan Nedved back into the bullpen as a trusty reliever and closer. The bullpen has been inconsistent since Nedved’s departure, and his presence could be a major help in calming things down.
JP Massey will be making his eighth start of the season and it’s been rough at times for the senior Gopher. Massey has allowed 25 earned runs over 34.1 innings of work (6.55 ERA), while striking out 37 and walking 23. Over his last two starts, he has allowed eight runs on eight hits, while walking eight over his last 6.2 innings.
Sunday Pitching Matchup – Soph Ty Langenberg vs rJr Aidan Maldonado
Ty Langenberg has been the most consistent starter for the Hawkeyes this season and while his start on Sunday against Illinois was his worst of the year, he still got through five scoreless innings before the wheels started to fall off. His final line was 6.0 innings, four runs, six hits, six strikeouts and two walks. On the season, Langenberg has posted a quality 2.55 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, including 48 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 35.1 innings.
The Gophers will go with Aidan Maldonado on Sunday, and he is coming off a big performance last Sunday, in which he got the win against Maryland. Maldonado went 6.0 innings, while allowing just one run on seven hits, while striking out five and walking just one. On the season, the redshirt junior has a 5.02 ERA, but has struck out 42 and walked just 18 over 37.2 innings.
Breaking Down the Golden Gophers
The Gophers come into the weekend with an underwhelming .246 team batting average and that ranks #248 in the entire country. The lineup has taken a hit since OF Easton Bertrand has been out for the last month. Bertrand was batting .383 with a .444 on-base percentage before he left the lineup, presumably with an injury.
OF Jack Kelly leads the team with a .370 batting average, while leading with 23 runs scored, 37 hits, 20 extra base hits, 31 RBIs and 72 total bases. Kelly will be the most dangerous bat in the Gophers lineup. C Chase Stanke is boom or bust at the plate, as he leads the team with nine home runs to go with eight doubles and 24 RBIs. However, he enters the weekend with just a .219 batting average. He is just 3/25 (.120) over his last seven games.
OF Brett Bateman is the leader on the bases with 12 stolen bases and is the only Minnesota player to start all 30 games. He is batting .298 on the season and is 6/17 (.353) over his last four games. OF Otto Grimm (.270), INF Boston Merila (.262) and INF Drew Stahl (.229) are other guys that should be seen in the lineup this weekend.
The Golden Gophers pitching staff enters the weekend with a 6.33 ERA, which ranks #214 in the country, while their 1.66 WHIP ranks #202. Out of the bullpen, Tom Skoro is the veteran option and has tied for the most appearances this season. Skoro has posted a 3.29 ERA, including 19 strikeouts to just three walks in 13.2 innings, which is pretty impressive. Josh Culliver is the next best option, as he has appeared in 11 games with a 4.50 ERA, including 16 strikeouts to six walks in 12.0 innings.
Iowa transfer Will Semb (4.67 ERA) and Bettendorf, Iowa native Seth Clausen (7.82 ERA) will likely see time on the mound this weekend, as they have combined for 25 appearances. They have combined for 34 strikeouts in 30.0 innings, but Clausen has struggled, allowing 16 hits and 12 walks in his 12.2 innings.
Jack Liffrig (6.75 ERA, nine games), Richie Holetz (7.71, eight games) and Sam Malec (8.74, eight games) could also come out of the bullpen this weekend. The Iowa bats need to take advantage of the Minnesota pitching staff this weekend and give their pitching staff run support to work with.
Midweek vs Bradley
The Hawkeyes and Braves played an extra inning thriller just over a week ago and will meet again at Duane Banks Field on Tuesday. Iowa will be looking to pick up a win ahead of their big series against Rutgers and they will try to do it in the regular nine-inning fashion. Bradley faces Dallas Baptist over the weekend.
1B Connor O’Brien continues to be the hottest bat in the Bradley lineup, with a batting average over .400 and a .463 on-base percentage. He leads the team with 42 hits, five home runs, 10 doubles, 25 RBIs and 67 total bases. CF Ryan Vogel (.347) smacked a home run against Iowa, while Keaton Rice (.278) had a pair of hits in the contest.
The Braves pitching staff still has a 6.85 ERA, which ranks #243 in the country, while they also have a team WHIP of 1.73. The Hawkeyes will be looking to take advantage of runners on base, much like they did against Milwaukee and hopefully the Iowa pitching staff takes care of business.
Set the Over/Under at 3.5 and you could still take the over. The Hawkeyes swept the Gophers last season in Iowa City and really need to again this season to avoid a hit in the RPI. While the last midweek match-up against Bradley went to extra innings, Iowa will be at home this time. Coach Rick Heller and the Hawkeyes would love to head to Piscataway for a huge series with Rutgers on a five-game win streak.