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 begins ‘real’ schedule this weekend

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Alex
Iowa outfielder Robert Neustrom celebrates with teammates after his grand slam during the game between the Bradley Braves and the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City at Duane Banks Field on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. The Hawkeyes bats came alive to hit two grand slams and won 12-1. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

By Pete Ruden 

[email protected]

The most important stretch of Iowa baseball’s regular season is finally here.
The Hawkeyes will begin Big Ten play at 2 p.m. today when they host Purdue at Banks Field for the first three-game home series of the season.

The Big Ten season could not have come at a better time for Iowa. In its past two games, the club has scored 24 runs, with 12 at Kansas State on Sunday and 12 against Bradley on Wednesday.

“I like where we’re at,” left fielder Robert Neustrom said. “I think we can still be better. I mean, we saw great displays of offense and defense, [Wednesday]. If we keep that up, I think everything’s going to be just fine.”

If Neustrom is saying that, then chances are he’s right.

The sophomore is leading the Big Ten in hits while leading the Hawkeyes with a .395 average that ranks second in the conference behind Purdue’s Skyler Hunter.

Just like Iowa, Neustrom is trying to carry his momentum over into Big Ten play.

In Wednesday’s 12-1 win over Bradley, Neustrom added to his season’s hot streak with a home run and 4 RBIs (grand slam).

“I say it a lot: just consistency,” Neustrom said. “If I have a bad game or a bad at-bat, I don’t try to take too much away from myself. I just stay consistent and think ‘I got it the next time.’ I’m going to go up and do me.”

However, there’s still one thing that Iowa is unsure about: pitching.

The Hawkeyes are set to use their fourth different rotation of the season this weekend.

The Hawkeyes announced on March 16 that Saturday starter C.J. Eldred would miss the remainder of the season to have surgery on his UCL.

In addition to Eldred, Friday starter Nick Gallagher missed his scheduled start last week, but head coach Rick Heller is hoping his ace will be ready to go come game time.

In the win over Bradley on Wednesday, seven pitchers saw time on the mound, giving relievers some extra experience in a time of need.

While the absence of Eldred and Gallagher certainly hurts, the pitchers have embraced their roles, making life easier for the rest of team.

“When you lose a leader like C.J. Eldred, it’s tough to replace that,” Heller said. “Having Nick kind of fighting some arm stuff, with the guys that we knew we weren’t going to have coming in to the season, it’s tough. What happens is, you have to redefine roles… I think that we’ve done a pretty good job of getting those guys out there the last couple weeks.”

Conference play is never an easy task, and this weekend’s Big Ten matchup is no exception.

Purdue is also trying to carry momentum over into the series, riding a six-game winning streak into the weekend.

With both teams standing at 11-8, Iowa has a prime opportunity to move closer to its ultimate goal of a Big Ten title.

Two or three wins would give the Hawkeyes some all-important confidence just as the competition strengthens.

“I think if everybody stays with what we’re doing, pitchers keep throwing strikes, hitters keep hitting, we’re going to be just fine in Big Ten play,” catcher Tyler Cropley said.

Tickets for today’s game, as well as the games on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and March 26 at 1:05 p.m., are $7 for adults and $3 for youth (ages 6-18) admission (ages 5 and under receive free admission).

More to Discover