By Pete Ruden
Iowa baseball is in an important part of its schedule. With only two Big Ten series and one midweek game remaining, the season is winding down. But the most important parts — the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments — are rapidly approaching.
The Hawkeyes are heating up at the right time, and although their record doesn’t make it clear, they have performed well against some of the best competition the conference has to offer.
Rick Heller’s squad has the potential to make a big run in the Big Ten Tournament for the second-consecutive year, and the numbers back it up.
19 — Home runs by Robert Neustrom and Tyler Cropley
Neustrom and Cropley have been on a roll recently, and it shows in their home-run numbers.
Their 19 home runs are almost as many as the rest of the team has combined (20). In just the past four games, the duo has combined for 19 hits, 18 RBIs, and 6 home runs.
Iowa knew it would need people to step up and that power hitting would be by committee after the departure of Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams. With the tear they have been on, it’s clear Neustrom and Cropley will play a big role for the Hawkeyes as the postseason approaches.
.178 — Opponent batting average against Zach Daniels
Daniels has been exactly what Iowa needed in its bullpen this season. With a team-leading ERA of 2.15 and 5 wins on the season, tied for the most on the team, Daniels has been an absolute force on the mound.
He has tossed five hitless outings and showcased his ability to go long on the bump when he pitched 4 innings in Iowa’s walk-off win over then-No. 7 Michigan on April 29 after Cole McDonald had to leave the game prematurely because of an injury.
Because of his ability to pitch more than one inning at a time and his production in 19 appearances on the mound, if the Hawkeyes make it out of the seventh inning with a lead, there is a good chance they will win the game, which will be huge in the upcoming tournaments.
414 — Strikeouts by pitching staff
Iowa is first in the Big Ten in total strikeouts by a huge margin. To put it in perspective, the next closest team — Ohio State — only has 356 punch-outs as a team.
A lot of those K’s are thanks to Nick Allgeyer and Brady Schanuel. Allgeyer ranks second in the conference with 76 strikeouts, trailing only Indiana pitcher Jonathan Stiever’s 79. Allgeyer hasn’t had an outing all season where he came out with fewer than 4 strikeouts.
Schanuel, on the other hand, sits at No. 9 in the Big Ten with 62.
Before his injury, Sunday starter McDonald also picked up a big chunk of the work, striking out 41 opposing batters, while Daniels enters with 39, despite pitching almost 10 fewer innings than McDonald.
With McDonald out, Jack Dreyer stepped up in his first weekend start against Oklahoma State on Sunday. The freshman left-hander gave up just 1 run on 2 hits against the 12th-ranked Cowboys.
Dreyer showed potential to get the job done all season, striking out 30 in just 20.2 innings of work.