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Baseball heads for stiff test

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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The hype around Iowa baseball is building and rightfully so.

The Hawkeyes enter this weekend with a 21-8 record and in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 6-0 record.

They are just outside the top 25 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and are entering the ranks in several other polls.

However, second-place Maryland is not far behind Iowa. The No. 16 Terrapins will host Iowa owning a 7-2 mark in conference play; they are 23-8 overall.

A series win for Iowa would go a long way toward the Hawkeyes’ goal of securing a postseason berth.

The point is, both teams are good, but this series will tell how good the 2015 iteration of Iowa baseball is.

So far in Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes haven’t disappointed their fans. This is especially true for the Iowa pitching staff, whose conference-only ERA of 2.33 leads the Big Ten.

“I think the most important thing of all is we’ve been consistent in everything,” head coach Rick Heller said. “We’ve been solid defensively, we’ve been solid on the mound, our bullpen has been good, and our bats have warmed up as the weather has.”

Coming off a midweek loss to Milwaukee, Iowa’s third midweek loss in a row, the Hawkeyes will need to be on their A game to take down the Terrapins.

Maryland ranks third in batting average, first in slugging percentage, and first in on-base percentage in the Big Ten, setting up a duel between Iowa’s pitching staff and the bats of Maryland.

“When Big Ten play rolls around, we have a lot of energy,” senior Eric Toole said. “We just have to stay positive.”

The Hawkeyes are not worried about the midweek losses and are solely focused on Maryland, and both players and coaches believe they can play with the best.

Toole said the team has plenty of confidence going into the series because of the success at Purdue and against Indiana, both Hawkeye sweeps.

“It’s going to be a tough series,” senior Kris Goodman said. “It’s going to take our best effort to win all three.”

The Terrapins lost to Virginia in a regional last season that would have sent them to the College World Series. In 124 years of baseball, Iowa has never played Maryland. 

The hype for the Hawkeyes is building, and so are the expectations, but Heller said his team is prepared for the challenge the Terrapins pose despite the hiccup against Milwaukee.

“I don’t think [we were looking ahead]” Heller said after the Milwaukee game. “[Maryland was] the preseason No. 1 team for a reason; they’re a very good team.

“Our guys are excited about the challenge.”

Follow @IanFromIowa for news, updates and analysis of the Iowa baseball team.


Series with No. 16 Maryland
When: Today-April 12
Where: College Park, Md.
Watch/Listen: AM-800 KXIC, BTN2Go (Saturday and April 12)


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