Iowa outfielder Ben Norman talks with volunteer assistant coach Sean Moore during the first of three baseball games against UNLV at Duane Banks Field on Friday, March, 31, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Rebels, 3-0. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Baseball seeks big bounce back

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by pete ruDen

pete-ruden@uiowa.edu

After suffering a 6-4 loss at the hands of Bradley on Wednesday, the Iowa baseball team will try to get back on the winning track this weekend when it takes on Rutgers for a three-game series at Banks Field.

Iowa was coming off of a weekend series against Nebraska in which it took two out of three for the series win. Nebraska was one of the hotter teams in the Big Ten at the time, so it seemed to be a good boost for the
Hawkeyes.

But while Iowa has been clutch in the eighth inning and beyond this season, that was not the case Wednesday. The Braves scored 5 runs in the seventh and eighth to take the lead for good.

“[That] was a tough loss,” head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “It’s never good to lose one late like we did [Wednesday].”

After the loss to Bradley, which Iowa beat, 12-1, earlier in the season at home, the Hawkeyes will try to rebound. And what better team to bounce back against than Rutgers?

The Scarlet Knights enter the series with the second-worst record in the Big Ten at 2-4, ahead only of Penn State’s 1-8 mark. Coming off two-straight losses to Seton Hall, the Knights have a 13-21 record.

Iowa, on the other hand, is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with Michigan State. with both at 5-4. Overall, the Hawkeyes are 22-13 with an incredible 11-1 record at Banks Field.

After Iowa’s first game against Bradley and right before Big Ten play kicked off, right fielder Robert Neustrom liked what he saw from his team. Now, before another conference series, the same thing is true.

“I like where we’re at,” Neustrom said after Iowa’s win over Bradley. “I think we can still be better. We saw great displays of offense and defense [March 22]. If we keep that up, I think everything’s going to be just fine.”

While Rutgers has a solid team batting average at .274, 11 points behind Iowa, its pitching hurts. Lots. In 34 games, Scarlet Knights’ pitching has put up a Little League ERA of 6.17, worst in the Big Ten.

Taking advantage of that will be important for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are one of the better hitting teams in the conference; their .285 team average puts them fourth.

Iowa has the sluggers to do the job, too. The first five players in the batting order all bat over .300.

Scoring early and often will be a big key for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 13-4 when scoring in the first inning, 16-1 when scoring 6 or more runs.

With Neustrom and first baseman Jake Adams ranking in the top five in RBIs in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes definitely have the capability to capitalize.

Still, if that doesn’t happen, Iowa has the ability to fight back. The Hawkeyes have shown their perseverance time and time again, highlighted by comeback wins in a double-header against UNLV as well as taking the series from Purdue after a first-game loss.

“I’ve learned that this team is really resilient,” center fielder Ben Norman said after the Purdue series. “No matter what situation we’re in, we know we’ve always got a plan, and we need to stick to our plan.”

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