Dan Cagley's Weekly Hawkeye Baseball Update

It is a potentially big weekend for Iowa Baseball as they host the co-leaders of the Big Ten, Ohio State. It is the Big Ten home opener weekend for Iowa, and the team needs to find more success in conference play. Although they are 11-14 on the season, the Hawks are just 2-6 and tied for last in conference action after losing three of four games last weekend to Big Ten co-leader Indiana. Ohio State is 6-2 in league play, and is 18-7-1 overall after losing to Oakland on Wednesday.

Mediocre teams play with inconsistencies, and that is what Iowa has exhibited over the last five games. After winning a couple of low scoring games in the middle of last week, the Hawks proceeded to win two games by the score of 17-13 and 11-9, while losing the other three, 10-7, 5-1, and 6-1. On the positive side, the last two games were the two wins, so maybe the bats can stay hot this weekend.

In the Friday game against the Hoosiers, the Iowa Offense spotted staff ace Reed Pawelk a 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning, but he could not hold it as he gave up 11 hits and 8 earned runs in 6 innings. Backup catcher Cliff Buckner led the hitters with a double, a home run, and 2 RBIs, while Chris Groth, Kyle Thousand, and John Paul Cappellano also combined for 7 hits. Ian Mattiace drove in 2 runs in the 10-7 loss. Despite losing the big lead, Coach Scott Broghamer is going to stick with Pawelk in the ace position of the staff next weekend. "He got the ball up and Indiana is a good hitting team. Their hitters exploited every mistake he made in the middle innings. Our starters have to set the tone and get us into the sixth, seventh, or eighth inning, but I think he will bounce back this week."

Despite the high score on Friday, the wind was blowing in both that day and Saturday. The scores on Saturday reflected a day in which the temperature in the mid-40s combined with the wind for low scoring games as Iowa lost both ends of the doubleheader. The Iowa Offense managed only 3 hits in the first game and was outhit 19-9 for the day.

The hitters rebounded on Sunday with their most productive day of the season in the 17-13 win. Unlike Friday and Saturday, the wind was blowing out with a temperature in the mid-50s. Seniors Andy Jansen, Brad Carlson, and Mattiace combined for 5 home runs, 2 doubles, and 14 RBIs. Mattiace was 4-4 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs just by himself! The Hawkeye pitching did not hold the lead very well, but all is forgiven when the middle of the order had a day like they had. "I think after the guys only scored 2 runs on Saturday," said Coach Broghamer, "they decided to come back and swing the bats the way that we are capable of."

Despite losing three of four to Indiana, the Hawkeye bats stayed hot as they overpowered Northern Illinois on Wednesday, 11-9. Northern Illinois is coached by Dave Schrage, formerly the coach at Northern Iowa during most of the 1990s. In a game played under the lights at Banks Field, the Hawks spotted Northern Illinois a 6-2 lead before scoring in each of their last five innings at bat. As usual, the three seniors in the middle of the order led the way. Carlson was 2-4 with 3 RBIs, while Mattiace was 2-4 with a RBI. Jansen was 3-3 with 3 RBIs and 4 runs scored, and his 3-run homer in the 5th inning was the difference in the game. Down 6-3, the blast tied the game and got Iowa back into the game. NIU scored two runs in the top of the sixth to go up again, but the Hawks scored three in the bottom frame to take the lead for good.

Ohio State does not have the gaudy team RBI totals that Indiana has, but they have four hitters with 20 or more RBIs. Nick Swisher (.319, 4 HRs, 7 2B, 24 RBIs) is the biggest name of the position players, but Christian Snavely (.424, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs) is swinging the hottest bat right now. Their pitching staff is led by starters Nate Smith and Scott Lewis who both have impressive earned run averages of 1.24 and 2.34 respectively.

These next two weeks will say a lot about how the league race will shake out. Even though the Hawks are off to a bad start in conference action, it is early enough in the season that only four games separate first and last place. If Iowa can win three of four this weekend, the race will become wide open once again. However, Ohio State owns a 67-49-1 record in the all-time series between the two schools and won three out of four last year in Iowa City.

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