The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Turning point for baseball

Iowa right-handed pitcher Cole McDonald pitches to Northwestern College batter at Banks Field on Tuesday. Iowa beat Northwestern College, 28-0. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

As early as the season may be, the Iowa baseball team (4-6) has reached a pivotal stretch.

The Hawkeyes will travel to Emerson, Georgia, this weekend to play in the Spring Swing at Lake Pointe, where they will take on Nebraska-Omaha, Seton Hall, Savannah State, and Point University.

First up will be Nebraska-Omaha (7-7) today, which the Hawkeyes last faced in 2014 in Port Charlotte. The Hawkeyes won that meeting, 7-1.

The Mavericks are hitting .305 as a team, with seven players maintaining averages over .300. Two players do most of the damage: Cole Gruber, hitting .397 with 23 hits and 11 stolen bases, and Clayton Taylor, hitting .354 with 4 home runs.

Tyler Fox (2-1, 2.04 ERA) will take the mound for Nebraska-Omaha against the Hawkeyes. Sophomore C.J. Eldred will be on the bump for Iowa, making his second Friday start this season. Iowa head coach Rick Heller said Eldred has cemented his place as a starter for the Hawkeyes.

“For any pitcher, it’s nice to know your role,” Eldred said. “But you got to keep consistently working hard, because if you’re not getting the job done, it’s next guy up. As far as having an established role, I think it just makes guys work harder. I know it does for me.”

Iowa will play Seton Hall on Saturday, a team that has played two Big Ten schools this year, beating Indiana twice and losing to Ohio State at the Snowbird Classic.

The Pirates will run out lefty Cullen Dana, who is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

“Nebraska-Omaha is always a tough team. They battle hard. It’ll be a good challenge for us,” Heller said. “Seton Hall, on paper, is maybe the best team we will play. We don’t know a whole lot about any of the teams from a scouting standpoint, though. Since we’re only playing one game against them, it’s not the easiest to get information on them.”

March 13 will bring a matchup with Savannah State (4-10). The Tigers have struggled on the mound and at the plate this season, hitting .247 as a team and posting a 6.66 team ERA.

Gregory Hollman, who will get the start for Savannah State, is 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.

The fourth game will be against Point University, a Division-2 school from West Point, Georgia.

After the Hawkeyes are done in Georgia, they will travel to Springfield, Missouri, to take on Missouri State March 18-20.

Missouri State, which knocked the Hawkeyes out of the NCAA regional last season, will serve as Iowa’s last tune-up series before Big Ten play starts.

“[Missouri State] is going to be one of the better teams on our schedule,” Heller said. “They’re off to a really good start, hitting the heck out of the ball and some really good pitching. [Springfield] is a fun place to play; it’s a good atmosphere. We wanted to have that series right before we played Maryland and the Big Ten schedule to see where we’re at and treat it as a Big Ten weekend.”

With no classes between their next two weekends of baseball, the Hawkeyes look forward to focusing solely on their job on the field.

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