The Hoosiers travel to Iowa City this weekend to take on the Hawkeyes, who are 11-17 overall, 2-4 in the conference and 4-5 at home this season. Baseball America picked Iowa to finish 9th in the Big Ten this season, and they currently sit in 10th place. This is yet another pivotal series for the Hoosiers as they look to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with atop the Big Ten. IU's starters threw the ball really well last weekend, so let's hope that continues in the state the Field of Dreams calls home.
The Hawkeyes have struggled both at the plate and on the mound thus far as they sport just a .293 team batting average (good for 9th in the Big Ten) and a 6.03 team ERA (good for 8th but ahead of IU who sits in 10th with a 6.30 ERA). Iowa is led by senior infielder Wes Freie with a .330 batting average, 10 doubles, 6 homeruns and 27 runs batted in and fellow senior infielder Justin Toole (two time 3rd team All-Big Ten; pictured on right), who is hitting a team-leading .345 with 38 hits, 9 doubles, a .429 on-base percentage and 8 steals.
As a team, Iowa has swiped 44 bases on the year (2nd in the conference). In addition to being a threat on the base paths, the Iowa hitters are also a threat for extra bases. They have the 3rd most doubles in the conference (61) as well as the 4th most homeruns (22). If they don't get on base with a hit, they also are prone to getting hit. With a conference leading 43 hit by pitches, look for Iowa to try to get on base at all costs against the Hoosier hurlers who have been susceptible to hit batsman (39 for the team (1st in Big Ten); 21 HBP combined for the 3 Hoosier starters). If the Hoosier pitchers can avoid hitting the Iowa batters, they can continue their high strikeout ratios as Iowa has the 3rd most Ks in the conference.
This weekend Iowa will be starting 3 freshmen on the mound. It would be great if the Hoosiers could take advantage of their relative lack of experience. The Hoosiers (.336 team batting average) have struggled a bit in the conference only hitting .272 (Dickerson and Knipp the only 2 IU players over .300) so let's hope we can bump this average up this weekend. I would caution the Hoosiers to not sleep on the basepaths, however, because Iowa has picked off 10 runners on the year (compared to IU's 3). On the other hand, we must be ready to run since Iowa is the clear conference leader in wild pitches with 43 (next closest has 25), 2nd in passed balls (12), and has allowed the 3rd most steals (35).
Game 1: Friday at 7pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Blake Monar (3-2, 38.1 IP, 4.70 ERA, 33K) v. RHP Nick Brown (2-1, 30 IP, 5.70 ERA, 15K)
Game 2: Saturday at 2:30pm EST - Televised on Big Ten Network
Projected Starters: IU - RHP Eric Arnett (6-1, 54 IP, 2.17 ERA, 51K) v. LHP Jarred Hippen (1-1, 30.1 IP, 3.56 ERA, 27K)
Game 3: Sunday at 2:30pm EST - Televised on Big Ten Network
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Matt Bashore (1-3, 37.1 IP, 6.03 ERA, 42K) v. RHP Phil Schreiber (1-0, 21.2 IP, 2.91 ERA, 6K)
If you aren't making the trip out to Iowa City, you can catch Friday's game on the radio (105.1 FM in Bloomington or via Live Audio on IUHoosiers.com), and both the Saturday and Sunday games will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Here's to an IU sweep! Go Hoosiers!