By Peter Ruden
Iowa baseball has not played a midweek game after suffering a Big Ten series loss all season, but that is going to change when the Hawkeyes take on Milwaukee at Banks Field at 6 p.m. today.
Iowa lost to Minnesota on April 20 and 21, then salvaged the series with a 5-3 win on Sunday behind the pitching of Cole McDonald. He tossed seven strong innings, conceding just 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 7.
After being defeated in two-consecutive games in a series for the first time in conference play, McDonald’s pitching gives the Hawkeyes hope heading into the midweek.
“This says a lot about this team and how their approach is in a professional way,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said in a release following Sunday’s game. “You can’t do anything about yesterday; you have to come out and give a great effort today, and all you have to do is play your best.”
McDonald will pass the torch to Trenton Wallace, who is set to make his seventh start of the season. The freshman lefty has been solid in his performance so far this season, putting up a 1-0 record and a 3.79 ERA. He has also fanned 21 in 19 innings of work.
Heller will likely keep to his midweek strategy of sending numerous pitchers to the rubber to get them innings and keep them ready for the weekend series against Michigan, beginning Friday.
In Iowa’s last midweek game, against Northern Illinois, which Wallace also started, the pitching staff combined to throw a 1-hitter among the seven pitchers who took the mound.
Four of those pitchers were freshmen, and it has become clear that the midweek games are helping them progress.
“They’re getting better; they’re all getting better,” Heller said after the Northern Illinois game. “It’s just a matter of them getting out there enough.”
Milwaukee will counter by sending little-used Matt Vanek to the bump. He has logged just six innings this season in two starts. The sophomore right-hander boasts a 3.00 ERA and has not earned a decision. He has walked 6, allowed 2 hits, and struck out 6.
Despite owning a 15-18 record, Milwaukee brings a potent offense to Banks Field. Five Panthers hit more than .300, led by freshman outfielder Zach Nogalski, who enters the game with a .381 batting average with 9 RBIs.
Nogalski is coming off an impressive game against Youngstown State on Sunday in which he went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
The Hawkeyes are led by the group of Chris Whelan, Robert Neustrom, and Tyler Cropley.
Cropley has impressed people all season, and he leads the squad with a .364 average. He is slashing .364/.591/.460, while leading the team with 31 RBIs and ranking second with 5 home runs.
Whelan enters the game with a .337 average and 2 home runs, despite only playing in 21 games. He is still recovering from Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
Neustrom comes in next with a .326 average. He also ranks fourth on the team with 19 RBIs.
After playing the Wolverines Friday through April 29, the Hawkeyes will host two midweek contests against Missouri and Western Illinois.