Iowa baseball looks to keep momentum going in Florida

Coming off three strong victories, Hawkeye baseball wants to keep its foot on the gas in Florida this weekend.


Nichole Harris

Iowa infielder Brendan Sher slides into third during a baseball game between Iowa and Grand View at Duane Banks Field on March 3, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Vikings 15-2.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Iowa baseball finds itself heading to Florida this weekend for the second time this season. But this time around, they have a lot more momentum.

The Hawkeyes are coming off back-to-back come-from-behind victories over top-20 programs in North Carolina and Duke, and they dominated Grand View 15-2 in their midweek game on Tuesday.

Now, Western Michigan, Georgetown, and Army stand in the way of Iowa continuing its hot streak.

“We really feel like our team took a big step forward this weekend,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller, who won the 900th game of his career Tuesday. “We were able to play three straight games with great focus and good intensity — no pressure.”

The Hawkeyes have continued to grow throughout the young season.

After going 1-2 in its second tournament of the year and falling to No. 8 North Carolina State last week, Iowa battled back to down the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

That’s a key for Heller’s squad.

In recent years, Iowa has picked up big series wins throughout the season in and out of conference. Then, it fell off the map in May.

It doesn’t want to go through the roller coaster type of season again.

Heller said his team doesn’t need to go through the peaks and valleys. Instead, he wants it to keep playing like it is while continuing to grow.

That’ll be much easier to do if Iowa’s bats continue to produce.

The Hawkeyes’ roster currently boasts three players hitting above .300 (minimum 20 at bats), with two more hitting at least .275.

Related: Heller secures 900th win as Hawkeyes down Vikings

This weekend marks an opportune time for the Hawkeyes who haven’t found their groove to do so.

Western Michigan’s pitching staff holds a combined 6.73 ERA, while Georgetown sits at 6.66. Army rounds the group out with the best number, but it still sits at 5.76.

Highlighted by Duke’s 0.75 ERA, North Carolina State, North Carolina, and the Blue Devils all entered last week’s tournament with a team ERA of 1.75 or better.

If Iowa can find its offense against teams of that caliber, all bets are off for what it can accomplish this weekend.

“I think we’re going to take it one game at a time like we’ve been doing,” infielder Brendan Sher said. “I think we’ve been doing a good job lately of just playing every pitch. Every guy has been having good at bats, good pitches. We’re going to do the same there.”

Iowa could stand to improve on the mound, however.

Friday starter Jack Dreyer gave up five runs on four hits in three innings of work last week. Although it came against a top-10 team, the Hawkeyes’ matchup against Western Michigan could go a long way for the sophomore.

After starting last season, Cam Baumann has struggled coming out of the bullpen this year. The junior from Fairfield, Iowa, holds a 16.88 ERA after giving up five earned runs in 2.2 innings scattered across three appearances.

So far, the unit has found a stabilizing force in Grant Judkins.

Judkins enters the weekend with a 2-0 record and a 2.65 ERA. He’s also punched out 17 batters in 17 innings on the bump.

Iowa’s first chance to carry its momentum over comes against Western Michigan today at 2 p.m. in Port Charlotte, Florida.