Preview: Iowa

@Iowa

from hawkeyesports.com

5pm Friday, 2pm Saturday, 2pm Saturday (all EDT)
Duane Banks Baseball Field
Iowa City, IA

Media Game 1: Live Stats and Audio
Probable Starters* Game 1: Chris Fetter (3-1)
Media Game 2: Live Stats and Audio
Probable Starters* Game 2: Eric Katzman (3-1)
Media Game 3: Live Stats and Audio
Probable Starters* Game 3: Mike Wilson (1-0)
Series: Michigan leads 93-39
Last Meeting: Michigan sweeps 4 at Home in 2008
Last Michigan Loss: 2007 at Iowa (Michigan took 3/4)

*Probable Starters not officially announced, I’ll update these after the weekly (now biweekly) releases come out for each team

Overview

Iowa is a team expected to finish near the bottom of the Big10 this year. So far this season they are 8-12, with an RPI of 260. They do have one good win at Louisville, the middle game of their 3 game set, winning 2-1.

The Hawkeyes have used many looks for their batting lineup so far in an attempt to create some offensive cohesion. They, like Michigan, have been hitting pretty well, but have struggled in putting it together to score runs. Overall, the Hawkeyes rank #138 in team batting average and #119 in scoring.

Pitching hasn’t been good. The team ERA is 6.73, good for 216th in the NCAA. Strikeouts also come at a fairly slow pace, just 6.6 per nine innings. This team, much like several others we’ve played recently, just isn’t that good.

Even Coach Dahm has begun using things like “it doesn’t matter if we win or lose.” He did a video interview with the Daily Iowan full of quotes coaches from struggling teams have.

The Field

The Hawkeyes play at Duane Banks Baseball Field, situated on the west side of campus near Carver Arena and Kinnick Stadium. Home plate faces north by northeast, meaning with the north wind coming in this weekend, not many balls are going to carry out of the park. The dimensions of the field are nearly symmetrical, with the lines being 330 feet, the power alleys at 375 feet, and straight away center being 400 feet. The fences are a little tall at 10 feet, but that’s not all that unusual. Along with the aforementioned wind, rain and even possibly snow is expected to be in the forecast on Friday and Saturday. This shouldn’t help our power numbers either.

They’ve only held 3 games at home before this series. The home opener did not have an official attendance, but game two was reported at just over 570 fans, which is well below the 3,000 person capacity. It shouldn’t be too intimidating.

The Team

Lineup

Leading off, at least most often, is third basemen Kevin Hoef. Hoef is a senior who has a career batting average of .321. Last year was his big break out as a junior, batting .357. This is his fourth year as a starter, but it’s also been his roughest stretch at bat. He is currently batting .237 and he’s been hit a NCAA high 14 times in 17 games. So while the average has been low, his on-base percentage of .410, aided by those hit-by-pitches, has kept him in the lead off spot. Hoef is also a threat on the bases, currently 7 for 8 in stolen base attempts. Hoef has also struggled a little bit on offense this year, already having 6 errors. I’m not sure what’s up with this; his defense has been much better in years past.

iowa-depth-chart

Iowa Depth Chart against Coe on Tuesday

Behind Hoef will be shortstop Justin Toole who generally in the 3 spot, but sometimes bats second or even lead off. Toole has been Iowa’s star on defense and offense for the last few seasons, but the senior has never been awarded higher than 3rd team All Big10. Jason Christian at Michigan was a big reason why. Regardless, Toole hit .395 last season, good for 5th in the conference. This season, Toole still has a very good batting average, coming in at .353 with a team high 16 runs. He’s also collected 13 RBIs. On the base paths, Toole will try to keep the defense on its toes. So far he’s 5 for 8 on the season.

The clean up spot is senior designated hitter Wes Freie. Freie is another Hawkeye to hit the starting stage last year with break out numbers, hitting .342. This year he is currently batting .333 with 14 runs, 15 RBIs, and 4 homers.

Behind these three, and even in the 2 hole, the order changes often. The top RBI producer for the team is senior first basemen T.J. Catalado with 19 on the season. He also is tied for the lead in team home runs with 4. His batting average is also pretty good at .304. Catalado has batted 6th 12 times and 5th 4 times.

Center field appears to be locked down after a rotating cast. Sophomore Kurtis Muller, listed as 5’0″ and the starter currently. He’s only batting .242 and has a 1:8 walk to strikeout ratio, surprising for a little guy. He is 3/4 stealing bases.

Junior right fielder Ryan Durant also has started consistently for the Hawkeyes. So far this season, he is batting .339 with 9 runs and 9 RBIs. In left field, the Hawkeyes start a rotating cast. One is a sophomore with a name I absolutely think is fake… Zach McCool. McCool is hitting .293 this year, which isn’t too impressive, but he does have a pair of homers and a triple this season. You might even see him at second base this weekend.

Other people in the rotating cast of left field and second base include freshman infielder Mike McQuillan who is only batting .263 with 8 runs, freshman infielder Chett Zeise who is batting .355 with 7 runs and 2 RBI, or sophomore Travis Willis who is batting .118 with 2 home runs.

Starting Pitching

The Hawkeyes have started seven different players this year on the mound. Their rotation last week featured Nick Brown, Micheal Jacobs, and Wes Freie (yes, the same Freie who is listed as the DH).

Freie has the best numbers out of the three, currently with a 2-1 record and 5.40 ERA in 4 starts. Over his 18 1/3 innings pitched, he’s given up 26 hits, 8 walks, and struck out a team high 20. Ten of those 26 hits have been for extra bases, which hopefully bodes well for Michigan. His most recent start was this Sunday in a win at Western Illinois. Freie went 5 innings only giving up one run on 6 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 2 hit batters.

Micheal Jacobs has the most starts on the team with 5, but they haven’t been all that successful. He’s currently 1-4 on the year with a 7.00 ERA. The lefty has had some tough luck on the mound. This season, his defense has already hung 7 unearned runs while Jacobs is on the mound. He hasn’t helped his own cause either though, allowing an opponent batting average of .384. Jacobs isn’t going to strike out many (well, unless Michigan continues its current strikeout pace); he only has 7 Ks on the year. His last start was a loss at home against Western Illinois. He lasted 3 innings, giving up 5 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and a walk.

Nick Brown earned his way into the weekend starting rotation two weekends ago, just in time to face a ranked Louisville team. In his first start, a loss, he lasted 5 1/3 inning, allowing 10 hits for 6 runs (5 earned) with 4 walks. In his second start, he picked up his first win at home against Western Illinois, lasting 6 1/3, allowing just 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), with a walk and four strikeouts. He seems like just the sort of pitcher that has their career day against Michigan lately.

Bullpen

The bullpen actually has a couple decent players in it for Iowa. Josh Hippen (LHP) and Patrick Schatz (RHP) are the two primary relievers. Schatz has the better ERA of the two at 2.25, and also sports a 1-0 record in 16 innings. He has an even 8 walks and 8 strikeouts. He also has had trouble with his defense, who has given up 6 unearned runs while on the mound.

Hippen is the stereotypical starter build at 6’3″, and has the strikeout numbers too. In his 18 innings, he’s struck out 13 batters. He’s only given up 6 total runs (all earned) and walked nine.

Outlook

As bad as Iowa is, they can get on base and score runs. Michigan has made it a habit lately to make meh pitchers look pretty good. I still think Michigan takes every game in the series, but they will be much closer than I would want us to be playing. Ultimately, it will just come down to “can Michigan move the runners around and score them?” I’ll take the optimisic yes.

Other Note(s) for the Weekend

BigTenNetwork airs its first baseball game of the season on Friday at 7pm, Michigan State vs Illinois. The BTN will also air their Saturday game at 4pm. Michigan will make its BTN debut next week against Penn State. I was hoping they would stream the baseball games, or at least offer them for replay, but I’m not sure what the plans are at BTN.com.

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