Iowa baseball lineup taking shape

With the 2019 schedule just around the corner, Hawkeye baseball is filling its lineup’s vacancies left by last season’s sluggers.


Megan Conroy

Lorenzo Elion talks to the press for interviews during baseball media day at the Hansen Football Performance Facility on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

Hawkeye baseball lost some of its biggest hitters in the offseason, leaving gaping holes in the lineup card for head coach Rick Heller.

Tyler Cropley and Robert Neustrom, just to name a couple, both departed the team to play professional ball.

It’s difficult to fill out holes left by departures, but the Hawkeyes are confident that won’t be a problem.

“We’ve got 15 guys who can step up, and it’ll be like no one was lost,” said infielder Lorenzo Elion, who had 39 hits for the Hawkeyes in 2018. “One left and we step right in their footsteps because we learned from them. They set good examples when they were here, and we just have to take advantage of that.”

The team is meeting the problem of losing its biggest bats with consistent depth throughout the lineup.

There might not be as many obvious sluggers as there were in 2018. This is easy to understand, because Cropley and Neustromn combined for 134 hits, and both averaged more than .300 in 2018.

The team is full of consistent hitters who might not be as flashy as last season’s stars, but depth is certainly a theme of the 2019 Hawkeyes.

After being asked which players will fill the spots of Cropley and Neustrom, head coach Rick Heller rattled off nine players who could fill important roles this season.

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“With this team, from the leadoff hitter to the 9-hole, we’ve got a very solid group,” Heller said. “I don’t know that there’s a guy that’s going to hit 15 or 20 home runs in the group, but I think we have a much more consistent lineup than even what we had last season.”

An immediate leader of the group is redshirt senior Chris Whelan. He had an .813 OPS last season — behind only Cropley and Newstrom — and rattled off 48 hits. He will most likely have more trips to the plate this season and will emerge as a difference-maker.

Finding a guy who can get on base at the lead-off spot is a high priority for the coaching staff. Whelan is definitely a guy who the coaches are looking at putting in the dynamic 1-slot, but so is senior Mitchell Boe.

Roman Slabach
Iowa Baseball Mitchell Boe #4 poses for a portrait at the Iowa football practice facility on Febuarary 5, 2018.

He is an upperclassman and is becoming a leader in the clubhouse for the Hawkeyes. He showed a decent amount of consistency in 2018, hitting .266 and slugging .351.

Filling out the rest of the lineup aren’t only returning players; several transfers and fresh faces seek to round out the group.

Izaya Fullard, a sophomore transfer from Kirkwood, was a first-team selection as a Juco Division 2 All-American, leading the association in hits and hitting .470.

There are a lot of question marks surrounding lineup spots and how many at-bats certain players will get this season, but they’ll be answered very soon. What Iowa knows right now, though, is that it has a roster full of solid players who can hit for average very effectively.

“It’s a great situation to have,” Boe said. “It makes Coach Heller’s job a lot harder trying to figure out a lineup.”