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Baseball steels itself for last home series

BY IAN MURPHY | MAY 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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To paint the Iowa baseball program’s recent success as miracle work done by a baseball savior, in this case head coach Rick Heller, is not entirely fair.

The nine seniors, including the foursome of Jake Mangler, Kris Goodman, Nick Day, and Eric Toole, who have combined to start 628 games, will close out their Hawkeye careers with a final three-game series this weekend against Minnesota.

“It’s not been any different from any other weekend this season,” Heller said. “We have to go out and play good baseball.”

Heller said the Gophers will play for their postseason lives this weekend — they are currently one game back of Nebraska for eighth place in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten only takes the top eight in the conference to the tournament.

For the Hawkeyes, however, the tournament is on the back of their mind — they are riding a high on the home front, with five-straight wins, and another series win would be 10-straight series wins dating back to last year.

“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are going to be big games for us,” Mangler said.

That’s especially true, as the Hawkeyes are in contention to host a regional site. D1baseball.com has projected the Hawkeyes to host a regional site for four-straight weeks, and the Hawks have built a case to host with a very strong Big Ten record and RPI of 25. 

The games are also important because the Hawkeyes trail Illinois by a game and a half in the Big Ten standings, and they cannot afford to lose ground in Big Ten games, especially this late in the season.

“Our goal is to stay in the Big Ten race,” Mangler said. “Going into the tournament, obviously, you want to play your best baseball, and I think we’re starting to figure things out where it’s going to happen for us.”

For the Hawkeyes, it is no longer if they will make the Big Ten Tournament, it’s how far they will go, and this weekend will be pivotal in deciding seeding.

On paper, the Hawkeyes have the clear advantage in starting pitching and fielding. All three of Iowa’s starting pitchers have ERAs of 3.06 or less, with junior Calvin Matthews leading the way at 1.77. In the field, Iowa ranks second in the conference with a .979 fielding percentage.

Minnesota, meanwhile, enters with 19-26 record, having lost its last four games. It has only one series win on the year.

But, as Heller has preached all season, anything can happen in baseball, and the team has embraced that attitude.

“It means a lot to us, especially against a team like Minnesota,” Goodman said. “It should be a great three games.”

Follow @IanFromIowa on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis on the Iowa baseball team


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