Baseball faces pivotal weekend

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Iowa short-stop Nick Roscetti swings the bat during game three of the Iowa-Kansas State series at Duane Banks field on Sunday, May 1, 2016. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 4-2 taking the series. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

 

The stakes have not been higher all year. For the Iowa baseball team (21-21, 7-8 Big Ten), this weekend is do or die.

With three conference series left this season, the Hawkeyes sit in a tie for ninth place in the Big Ten standings.

Iowa head coach Rick Heller said he believes it will take 12 conference wins to get a berth in the conference tournament. With series left against Penn State and Ohio State, teams currently seventh and eighth in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes control their destiny.

If Iowa wants to be one of the eight teams to qualify for the tournament in Omaha, they need to take care of business against Ohio State (29-15-1, 8-7 Big Ten) this weekend or be in danger of falling out of the race.

Even with the stakes so high, the Hawkeyes want to treat their road trip to Columbus just as any other they have had this year.

“We have to treat it like just another series,” freshman Robert Neustrom said. “We’re going to do us, and they’ll do them. Hopefully, ours is better than theirs, and we’ll come out on top.”

Neustrom and Company will be in for the biggest test they have seen all year. The Hawkeyes have only three true road wins this season — one each versus Illinois State, Minnesota, and Indiana.

On the other side of the equation, Ohio State is 15-3 at home, with two Big Ten home series wins against Northwestern and Rutgers.

After a lackluster performance against Kansas State last weekend, Iowa got back on track in its midweek matchup against Western Illinois, winning 10-4.

Heller was happy to see the Hawkeyes bounce back before they travel to Ohio State.

“We just wanted to go out, and have fun, and see if we could get hot and get things rolling before we head to Ohio State, and get some confidence going,” Heller said. “The guys did a good job of that.”

Sophomore C.J. Eldred will make another Friday night start for Iowa. Eldred has been the best pitchers on the Hawkeye staff much of the year, although his numbers do not necessarily show that. He is 2-6 on the season but has a 2.92 ERA.

The Buckeyes will counter with lefty Tanner Tully, who is 5-3with a 2.60 ERA. Tully presents a challenge for the Hawkeyes, who have struggled against left-handed pitching most of the year.

Senior Tyler Peyton will be back in the rotation this weekend, making a Saturday start for Iowa. Peyton had taken a leave of absence from the mound after receiving 12 stitches in his throwing arm after a game against Michigan.

John Havird will start for Ohio State, another lefty with a 5-1 record and 2.78 ERA.

Heller has not declared a starter for the May 8 matchup. Senior Calvin Mathews and sophomore Nick Gallagher have shared that duty this season. Mathews has struggled recently, but Heller has liked Gallagher coming out of the bullpen.

Whichever starter Heller chooses, he and the rest of the Iowa staff will face a Buckeye team hitting .266 as a team.

Nick Sergakis and Ronnie Dawson lead the charge for Ohio State; the two are hitting .372 and .306 and have combined for 68 RBIs.

Iowa senior Nick Roscetti said after Iowa’s win against Western Illinois that the Hawks cannot afford to get ahead of themselves, and they will keep that in mind against Ohio State.

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