Iowa baseball catches fire ahead of weekend series with Minnesota

The Hawkeyes will face the Golden Gophers in a three-game homestand at Duane Banks Field.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa Center Fielder Ben Norman crosses home plate after hitting a home run during a baseball game between Iowa and Nebraska at Duane Banks Field on March 19, 2021. Norman drove in two runs to give the Hawkeyes a couple insurance runs. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 3-0.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa baseball is riding a hot streak into its series against Minnesota at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City this weekend.

After a 4-7 start to the season, the Hawkeyes have won five of their last six games, boosting their record to 9-9.

Prior to its series with Purdue last weekend, Iowa had not boasted a .500 win percentage at any point this season.

According to head coach Rick Heller, the Hawkeyes’ recent success can be attributed to the run support Iowa pitchers are receiving from Hawkeye batters.

“For the most part, our starting pitching has given us a chance to win almost every time out if we would have been swinging the bats a little bit better at certain times,” Heller said. “The one thing we haven’t done is we haven’t really meshed those together well. It seems like when we get a really high quality pitching performance, we don’t hit a lot. If we hit a lot, that’s the day that we don’t pitch great, so that’s kind of how baseball goes it seems like.”

“But that’s what we’re trying to do now is keep consistency in both of those areas, the offense and the pitching, and that’s when you can see a nice streak happening,” Heller continued.

Junior Trenton Wallace has been the Hawkeyes ace pitcher throughout the season. The Rock Island, Illinois, native boasts a Big Ten-best 2.28 ERA in the 27.2 innings he’s pitched.

On the season, Wallace has held hitters that have faced him to a .151 batting average.

With Wallace leading the way, Iowa’s pitching staff has hurled 10 games with eight or more strikeouts in 2020-21. The Hawkeyes have also held their opponents to three runs or less in nine games this season.

RELATED:  Iowa baseball gets to .500 after taking two of three against Purdue

Through 18 games and 71.3 total innings pitched, Iowa’s bullpen boasts a 4.16 ERA. So far, the best of the Hawkeyes’ bullpen bunch has been junior Dylan Nedved, who has a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings tossed.

In last Sunday’s game against Purdue, Nedved entered the contest during the eighth inning. In the ninth, the Shawnee, Kansas, native proceeded to surrender three runs, though the Hawkeyes did hang on to win, 8-5.

“They didn’t really necessarily hit the ball hard,” Nedved said. “So, I really wasn’t worried. I was able to get a couple outs after that. Once I cleared the bases, I was pretty much smooth sailing from there.”

Ben Norman has been Iowa’s best offensive player this season, batting .303 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

Before this year, Norman had hit just seven home runs in his entire collegiate career.

As a team, the Hawkeyes have batted .234 this season. Over its last six games, Iowa has averaged 7.3 runs. The Hawkeyes are 8-0 in games that see them score first.

“On the offensive side, if we can consistently put good at-bats together, we’re going to keep leaning on pitches. We’re going to put up a lot of runs,” Norman said. “So, just making sure we’re having quality at-bats up and down the lineup.”

Friday’s game starts at 6:32 p.m. and will televised on the Big Ten Network. The contest will also serve as Hawkeye fans’ first opportunity to watch Iowa baseball in-person at Duane Banks Field.

Duane Banks field can hold about 1,200 fans per game and still comply with UI Athletics’ 50 percent capacity restriction.

Saturday’s game begins at 2:05 p.m. with the series finale to follow Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

“Our fans are fantastic,” Heller said. “And they do a really great job during the course of the game and all of us are looking forward to seeing [Duane Banks Field] with quite a few fans.”

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