Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa baseball team has hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament again under the watch of head coach Rick Heller. While I believe the Hawkeyes will have a successful season in the Big Ten this year, I don’t think they will do enough to earn their first NCAA regionals appearance since 2017.

Last season, Iowa recorded 36 wins — good for eighth all-time in program history — and finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings, going 17-7 in conference play.

The Hawkeyes have lost a lot of talent from last year’s squad.

Former Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Adam Mazur was taken in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. First baseman Peyton Williams and closer Ben Beutel also made the jump to professional ball. Williams had a .335 batting average for Iowa last season while cranking 13 home runs for the Hawkeyes. Beutel posted a 1.47 earned run average while earning four saves and a 3-0 record in 2022.

Williams was drafted in the seventh round by the Toronto Blue Jays, and Beutel signed with the Chicago White Sox as an undrafted free agent.

Last season, Iowa boasted an RPI of 61 at the end of the season. While they had a decent RPI, the Hawkeyes struggled with the overall strength of schedule, having the 107th hardest schedule in Division I baseball.

While Iowa did schedule tough individual games against LSU and Sam Houston State, along with a weekend series against Texas Tech, this season, I don’t see the Hawkeyes’ overall strength of schedule improving measurably from last season.

Games against South Dakota State and Western Illinois, teams in the high 200s in last season’s RPI, won’t help the resume, and a loss to any of these teams would prove catastrophic.

While I believe the Hawkeyes will have a solid season competing in the Big Ten, I don’t see them going anywhere further than that.