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

Baseball steels itself for Illini

Peter Kim
Iowa right hand pitcher C.J. Eldred throws the ball at Duane Banks Baseball Stadium on Friday, Mar 25, 2016. Iowa defeated Maryland, 8-1. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

Following another nonconference midweek victory, this time over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Hawkeye baseball team (12-14, 3-3 Big Ten) will get back in to conference action by taking on Illinois (12-14, 3-3) for a three-game series this weekend at Banks Field.

The series will kick off today with the first pitch set for 4:05 p.m. Saturday’s contest will get underway at 2:05 p.m., and the series finale will start on April 10 at 1:05 p.m.

This evening’s game will feature one of the most feared pitchers in the Big Ten, as Hawkeye hitters will be charged with the task of trying to beat up Illini junior right-hander Cody Sedlock — a task that has rarely been accomplished.

Sedlock enters the game with a 4-1 record and a 3.50 ERA. He’s also been tabbed as the No. 3-ranked MLB prospect in the conference and a top-40 prospect in the country.

“We’re going to face one of the top pitchers in the country, definitely in the Big Ten, in Sedlock,” head Hawkeye coach Rick Heller said. “After that, we’re very similar teams, and it’s a big weekend for both of us.”

Iowa will send C.J. Eldred to the mound to battle Sedlock in the first game of the series. Eldred, a 6-1, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, enters the weekend with a 2-3 record and a 2.51 ERA.

Saturday’s matchup in Game 2 pits Hawkeye senior righty Tyler Peyton (1-3, 4.66 ERA) against Illini sophomore left-hander Doug Hayes (3-2, 3.14). The series finale on April 10 will feature Iowa’s Nick Gallagher (3-2, 2.89 ERA) go up against Illinois’ Cole Bellair (0-1, 2.48 ERA).

The weekend series, though still fairly early in the season, has significance. The Illini come to Iowa City as the defending Big Ten champions, and despite their record, are more than capable of repeating.

And taking a series from the defending conference champions would be quite the accomplishment for Heller’s squad, even if the Illini did lose a few key members of last year’s team.

“They were really good last year, and they lost some guys. But they’re still just as good,” Hawkeye junior third baseman Mason McCoy said. “It’ll be a fun weekend for sure, and there will be some good baseball.”

Last weekend, the Illini dropped two of three games to Nebraska. Remarkably, it was the team’s first series loss since the 2014 season.

Despite the intimidating numbers of past Illini teams, the Hawkeyes aren’t treating the series any differently.

“In baseball, anything is possible,” freshman pitcher Shane Ritter said. “Any team can beat anyone. You’ve just got to come out and play your game and play as hard as you can.”

As was the case against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, weather conditions at Banks Field this weekend are expected to be less than ideal (with the exception of April 10): mid-40-degree temperatures and wind are in the forecast.

Heller said the conditions will be tough, there’s no denying that. For he and his team, however, that can’t be a factor. Against the Illini, it’s a win-only mentality.

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