Pivotal weekend for baseball

Iowa+no.+23%2C+Joel+Booker+warms+up+during+a+baseball+game+at+the+Duane+Banks+Field%2C+Sunday%2C+April+10%2C+2016.+Iowa+won+over+Illinois%2C+4-3.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FTing+Xuan+Tan%29

Ting Xuan Tan

Iowa no. 23, Joel Booker warms up during a baseball game at the Duane Banks Field, Sunday, April 10, 2016. Iowa won over Illinois, 4-3. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

For the Hawkeye baseball team, this weekend might be the most important series in more than a year.

Iowa (22-23, 8-10 Big Ten) will welcome Michigan State (32-13, 11-7 Big Ten) to Banks Field today to kick off a three-game series, the final home series of the season for the Hawkeyes. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.

Sitting in 10th place in the Big Ten standings, advancing to the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha May 25-29 will take a lot of good baseball, and a little bit of luck. But in the Hawkeye clubhouse, it’s not panic time just yet.

“If you panic, that’s when things go wrong,” senior outfielder Joel Booker said. “Everyone’s calm, and we’re just taking it day by day. We’re going up there and taking it pitch-by-pitch and capitalizing on mistakes. I don’t think there’s any panic.”

Sophomore right-hander C.J. Eldred will get the nod on the mound for the series opener. He has struggled so far this season, with a 2-7 record, although his 3.36 ERA might not indicate that.

Eldred will face Spartan sophomore righty Ethan Landon (6-2, 2.69 ERA).

Senior Tyler Peyton (2-5, 5.80 ERA) will start on the hill for Game 2 of the series on Saturday, with Calvin Mathews (0-4, 7.04 ERA) closing out the series for Game 3 on May 15.

After being shut out by Ohio State in two of three games from May 6 through Sunday, the offensive struggles that have plagued the team all throughout the season reared their ugly heads again.

Hawkeye head coach Rick Heller said the solution is fairly simple.

“When you get your pitch, you’ve got to find a way to hammer it in,” he said. “We’ve just been off … when you’re not getting quality at-bats with runners in scoring position, that’s always concerning.”

For 12 Hawkeye seniors, the weekend series will be their final appearance in front of the home crowd.

John Barrett, Booker, Jimmy Frankos, Connor Grant, Jared Mandel, Mathews, Daniel Aaron Moriel, Peyton, Tyler Radtke, Nick Roscetti, Eric Schenck-Joblinske, and Luke Vandermaten will all bid farewell to Banks Field.

For Roscetti, the sentiments of senior weekend paired with the weight of trying to make the Big Ten Tournament won’t change the approach.

“We know we have to improve. We’re going to keep with our approach,” he said. “Hopefully, it works out, but we know we have to start winning some ball games.”

Roscetti is making his way in to the Hawkeye record books, sitting ninth all-time with 137 career singles for the Hawks.

The road to the Big Ten Tournament is uphill, and it is very steep. Ohio State, Maryland, and Penn State have a three-way tie for sixth place with 10-8 records. Illinois sits ninth with a 9-9 record.

Heller has all the faith in the world in his team, however. He’s seen the potential his players possess. The season isn’t over — there’s still something to play for.

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