Who will be the national champ?

Iowa+pitcher+Ryan+Erickson+throws+the+ball+towards+home+plate+at+Duane+Banks+Field+in+Iowa+City%2C+Iowa+on+Tuesday+March+22%2C+2016.+The+Hawkeyes+rally+back+in+the+bottom+of+the+9th+to+defeat+the+Braves+7-6.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2F+Alex+Kroeze%29

Iowa pitcher Ryan Erickson throws the ball towards home plate at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, Iowa on Tuesday March 22, 2016. The Hawkeyes rally back in the bottom of the 9th to defeat the Braves 7-6. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

The Hawkeye baseball team (10-12, 2-1 Big Ten) seems to have things rolling after a series win over Maryland to start the conference season and a 12-3 beatdown over Northern Illinois on Tuesday.

Iowa will head north to Minnesota this weekend to take on the Gophers (12-9, 0-0) in their first Big Ten road series of the season. Both teams are trending in the right direction, with Minnesota recently taking two-of-three from a tough Missouri State team that swept the Hawkeyes earlier in the spring.

The Gophers drove in 23 runs in three games versus Missouri State, and they have filled up the scoreboard much of the year.

The Hawkeye pitching staff, coming off its best series of the season against Maryland, will have its hands full with the Gopher bats.

Minnesota team walk percentage: 8 percent

The Gophers put the ball in play. They do not walk much, hence the low percentage. To compare, the Hawkeyes walk rate is 13 percent this season.

But Minnesota is not just a lineup of free swingers, either. As a team, the Gophers have only struck out 135 times (Iowa has struck out 157 times in one fewer game.)

The Hawkeye defense will be tested this weekend more than it was against Maryland, which has struck out 189 times in 2016.

Minnesota team batting average: .331

The Gophers make a lot of contact. They do not walk much; they do not strike out much. They do find a lot of holes, to the tune of a .331 team batting average.

Minnesota has 10 players in its lineup that are hitting above .300 in 24 or more at-bats. They have seven players hitting above .320 with 24 or more at-bats. To compare, Iowa has three players hitting over .300.

On top of the batting average, Minnesota has 71 extra-base hits in 2016, compared with the 53 the Hawkeyes have accumulated.

Minnesota team earned run average: 4.67

As stellar as the Gophers have been at the plate, they have struggled just as much on the mound. The team ERA is high, add in a team WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.41, and there is reason for concern.

The Gopher bats have made up for the flaws of the pitching staff thus far, but as Minnesota starts the Big Ten season this weekend, it will start to see better pitching, and regression at the plate is bound to happen.

The Hawkeyes have a team ERA a whole run lower than the Gophers at 3.60.

Minnesota’s record vs. teams above .500: 7-8

The bats have been great, the pitching has been suspect, but the truth of the matter is that Minnesota has not been tested all that much this season.

The Gophers have been somewhat of a mixed bag in 2016. They recently took two-of-three from Missouri State, which has a 19-5 record this year. But the weekend before its trip to Missouri State, Minnesota dropped three-of-four to Seattle University.

The rest of the Big Ten will have a better idea on what to think of Minnesota after this weekend against the Hawkeyes.

 

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