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Opponent Preview: Iowa

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Meet the Hawkeyes... and don’t be fooled by that 3-3 record

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 03 Houston Regional - Iowa v Texas A&M Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Iowa

Mascot: Proud Vision Enthusiasts | School Location: Iowa City, IA | Conference: Big Ten

2020 Record: 3-3 (0-0, T-1st) | 2020 RPI Rank: 47

2019 Record: 29-24 (12-12, T-6th) | 2019 RPI Rank: 106

2018 Record: 29-20 (13-9, T-6th) | 2018 RPI Rank: 78


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)

Game Time(s): Friday, Feb 27 @ 12:00pm

TV: Big Ten Network Plus / FloBaseball

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday)

Live Stats: Gopher Sports (Sidearm Stats)


Tell me about this team

Late last season, with Iowa sitting at 27-16 (11-7), it seemed like the Hawkeyes were heading for a possible 3-seed in an NCAA Regional. Instead, the team skidded to an 8-10 mark to close out the season - including a 1-2 mark in the Big Ten Tournament - to miss a regional appearance.

The good news for the Iowa and seventh-year head coach Rick Heller (204-130 overall at Iowa, 81-61 B1G, 2 Regionals in 6 years) is that the three most experienced hitters, as well as the guy who led the team last year in OPS, are back with a bevy of experienced and productive arms that this team should make some noise again in 2020. The bad news is so far - and granted it is still early - that experience hasn’t resulted in a lot of production, either at pushing runs across the plate or preventing the other team from doing the same.

The Hawkeyes as a team are slashing just .263/.358/.354 with 7 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, and a 24:57 BB:K ratio in six games. NC State, by comparison, is slashing .332/.433/.570 with 23 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, and a 43:59 BB:K ratio in eight games. The problem (aside from a lack of power) is the lack of production from the newcomers not named Dylan Nedved. The team also has no speed on the base paths to make up for the lack of power by being able to move guys up without sacrificing. Even then, they’re not really a small ball team.

On the mound, the starting pitching has been phenomenal, but by and large the bullpen has been a polar opposite. The expected-to-be-reliable bullpens arms haven’t been able to keep opponents off the bases or from touching home plate. Will that last? Probably not, but unless and until they can start getting production from the lineup and/or the bullpen, it’s going to be a long season.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: LHP Jack Dreyer (rSO)


Key Players:

Offense

SS Brendan Sher (SO) - .350/.458/.600, 20 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 0-1 SB. Good all-around player and leader of the team. Can be a very tough out at times.

OF Ben Norman (SR) - .333/.429/.458, 24 AB, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 2-2 SB. The only real threat on the bases for Iowa, the left-handed hitter was a Freshman All-American on the Hawkeyes’ last NCAA Regional team in 2017.

2B Izaya Fullard (JR) - .300/.444/.450, 20 AB, 1 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 0-0 SB. Stocky former JUCO transfer who can play all infield positions. Disciplined hitter.

1B Peyton Williams (FR) - .250/.308/.417, 24 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 1-1 SB. Gigantic 6’5, 255 lbs freshman masher. Hit 16 home runs as a high school senior.

C Austin Martin (SR) - .280/.280/.320, 25 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K, 0-0 SB. Preseason All-Big Ten selection who in 2019 slashed .294/.369/.396 with 10 2B, 2 HR, and a 21:29 BB:K ratio. Hasn’t really been tested behind the plate yet this year (4 SBA in 6 games, 0 CS).

3B Dylan Nedved (JR) - .300/.364/.400, 10 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-0 SB. Should be getting more PT than he is, especially on a team currently lacking productivity.

Pitching

LHP Jack Dreyer (rSO) - 1-1, 2.31 ERA/0.71 WHIP/.128 OBA, 11.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 13 K. Pretty well-regarded prospect who’s been strong since coming back from a shoulder injury that wiped out almost his entire 2019. Compact delivery without overpower stuff, but knows how to pitch.

RHP Grant Judkins (SR) - 2-0, 1.64/0.64/.135, 11.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K. Big kid who is off to a fantastic start for the second straight season (he fizzled down the stretch, though). Dominated 18th-ranked Arizona last time out (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K).

RHP Grant Leonard (rSR) - 0-1, 2 SV, 15.43/1.90/.384, 2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. The team’s closer who had 14 saves last year with a 3.37 ERA. Not physically imposing or overpowering. Relies heavily on a slider as his out pitch.

RHP Dylan Nedved (JR) - 0-0, 2.70/0.97/.100, 3.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. JUCO transfer two-way player (you knew that name sounded familiar, right?). Fastball has some sink to it. Change has some nice arm-side run.

LHP Trenton Wallace (JR) - 0-0, 2.70/1.29/.167, 3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Had a down sophomore year on the mound after coming back quickly from elbow surgery. Was productive as a freshman and should get back to that level now that he’s fully healthy. A two-way play who gets some ABs here and there, but isn’t overly productive with the bat.


Quick! Fun Facts!

This will be the first meeting between Iowa and NC State.

Despite this being the 130th season of Iowa baseball, they have only made five NCAA Tournament appearances (1972, 1975, 1990, 2015, and 2017). They made the College World Series in 1972.


Prediction

Iowa starter Jack Dreyer will keep NC State’s bats relatively quiet for the first half of the game. If the Wolfpack bats can get to the Hawkeyes bullpen early, they could blow this one open.

The Wolfpack will be mixing up their weekend rotation a bit, sending Reid Johnston out for the Friday start against a mostly right-handed hitting Iowa team.

Outcome: NC State puts up a couple insurance runs late in a 5-2 win.