Iowa baseball set for season-opening series against Michigan

The Hawkeyes’ four-game weekend starts tonight at 6 p.m. in Round Rock, Texas.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa outfielder Trenton Wallace swings while at-bat during the second game of a baseball doubleheader between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Sunday, March 17, 2019. The Hawkeyes took the series by defeating the Matadors, 3-1.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

For the first time in almost a year, Iowa baseball will take the field, beginning its 2021 season against No. 21 Michigan tonight at 6 p.m. in Round Rock, Texas. The Hawkeyes will play four games in three days with a double-header scheduled tomorrow. All four games can be seen on BTN +.

The Hawkeyes will try to pick up where they left off 360 days ago before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season March 12. Iowa was 10-5 prior to the pandemic — good for the program’s best record through 15 game since 2015.

Although Iowa’s pitching staff took a hit this offseason as ace Jack Dryer sustained an elbow injury in the fall that will keep him out for the entire season, the Iowa bats may provide enough run support for the Hawkeye hurlers as they adjust to life without Dryer.

Head coach Rick Heller’s bunch scored over seven runs per game in 15 contests last year, including double-digit showings of 15 runs against Grand View, 10 runs versus Western Michigan, and a record-setting 22 runs against Georgetown.

With 29 of last year’s 36 players returning for the Hawkeyes in 2021, Iowa’s hitting should remain a strength.

All five players that batted over .300 last season will be back for Iowa, including junior Trenton Wallace.

The Rock Island, Illinois, native tallied a .529 batting average with nine hits in 17 at-bats, including three doubles and a home run.

Wallace didn’t just do damage at the plate last season as he also ate up 11 ⅓ innings out of the Hawkeye bullpen. He struck out 18 batters in five relief appearances, posting a 1.59 ERA.

Wallace may start in the season-opener in Dryer’s absence, even though he has only started three college games in the last two years.

When Wallace was a regular starter during his freshman year, he posted a 3.75 ERA in 13 appearances — five of which came as a starter.

The last time the Hawkeyes and Wolverines met —back in 2018 at the Big Ten tournament — Michigan edged Iowa, 2-1, in 10 innings. But earlier that season — when the then-No. 7 Wolverines came to Iowa City and Duane Banks Field for a three-game series with Iowa — the Hawkeyes took two out of three games.

Michigan ended last season ranked 16th nationally. Now, the Wovlerines may have to figure things out on the fly during the early part of this season.

While Michigan’s roster is littered with upperclassmen talent, several of the team’s best players moved to the professional ranks after the college season was canceled. Wolverine outfielder Jordan Nwogu, shortstop Jack Blomgren, and the ace of the pitching staff, Jeff Criswell, were all selected in the 2020 MLB draft.

Despite the roster changes, the Big Ten announced Thursday that its coaches had selected Michigan as the favorite to take the conference title. Iowa is projected to finish fourth this season.

The Hawkeyes home-opener is scheduled for March 19 against Nebraska.

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