Iowa baseball seeks to continue Banks Magic

With two midweek games on Iowa docket, the Hawkeyes have a chance to build momentum on the mound and in the box.

Iowa%27s+Chris+Whelan+stands+in+the+batters+box+during+a+baseball+game+against+the+University+of+Illinois+on+Sunday%2C+Mar.+31%2C+2019.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Illini+3-1.
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Iowa baseball seeks to continue Banks Magic

Iowa's Chris Whelan stands in the batters box during a baseball game against the University of Illinois on Sunday, Mar. 31, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 3-1.

Iowa's Chris Whelan stands in the batters box during a baseball game against the University of Illinois on Sunday, Mar. 31, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 3-1.

David Harmantas

Iowa's Chris Whelan stands in the batters box during a baseball game against the University of Illinois on Sunday, Mar. 31, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 3-1.

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa's Chris Whelan stands in the batters box during a baseball game against the University of Illinois on Sunday, Mar. 31, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 3-1.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Hawkeye baseball may have just fashioned a sweep over a top-25 Illinois squad this past weekend, but its week doesn’t slow down at all.

In the midst of a nine-game home stand, Iowa will host Clarke University and Illinois State today and Wednesday, respectively, heading into a weekend series against Rutgers.

The two midweek games allow the Hawkeyes to put fresh faces on the mound to start. Last week, Duncan Davitt made his first career start in a 4-2 midweek victory over Bradley, and the confidence from that game carried over into the weekend sweep of Illinois.

The momentum on the mound certainly has a chance to appear again today. Clarke is hitting .278 as a team, which can let fresh arms start against a quality team at the plate.

Seeing dominant pitching performances can also help. Grant Judkins allowed only 1 hit in seven innings on Sunday, using a little help from watching what Friday starter Cole McDonald and Saturday starter Cam Baumann did before him.

“It gives me a lot of confidence out there seeing what they’ve done, seeing how they’ve pitched different batters,” Judkins said.

On Wednesday, Iowa has a similar advantage but from the other side. The Illinois State pitching staff has a 5.55 earned run average, allowing 250 hits in 227 innings.

After scoring just 4 runs in three games against Indiana in Bloomington on March 22-24, the Hawkeyes bounced back to outscore Illinois 13-6 in the three-game sweep.

RELATED: Iowa baseball bounces back with improvement on the mound

The Hawkeyes also found a dangerous combination of first-year players in Austin Martin, Izaya Fullard, and Connor McCaffery.

Martin leads the squad with a .345 average and has 2 home runs and a team-high 14 RBIs, while Fullard has hit at a .292 clip with a dinger and 9 RBIs.

Although he has only played in eight games because of basketball, McCaffery has also been a solid hitter in the middle of the lineup, hitting .333 in his 21 at bats.

Despite opening Big Ten play by getting swept, the trio transitioned smoothly in their first season to even Iowa’s conference record.

After last week’s midweek victory over Bradley sparked Iowa to a Big Ten sweep, the Hawkeyes want more.

“I thought we were kind of down in the dumps for most of that [Bradley] game,” senior Chris Whelan said. “Pitching was great, defense was great. We were putting good swings on the ball, we just didn’t really have it, but I think that sparked the whole thing.”

Iowa also finds rest at home. The Hawkeyes own an 8-1 record at Banks Field this season, with their only loss coming at the hands of Cal State-Northridge, which Iowa still beat in a three-game series.

Whether it’s an eighth-inning rally or a dominant pitching performance, Banks Magic has been real. Now, Iowa just needs to keep it going.

“It kind of goes back to the magic at the Banks and all the stuff that brings,” Whelan said. “We believe that we’re unbeatable at home.”