116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The best way to take care of all the speculation is to just win the whole thing.
The Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team ended its regular season late Saturday night with a 2-1 win over Indiana at Banks Field. That completed a three-game sweep of a series that began with that ridiculous 30-16 win Thursday night and a 12-0 thrashing Friday night.
“I was proud of our guys,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “ It was a long weekend with a lot of emotion and senior weekend going on and a late game like this. We showed a lot of toughness and responded. I am proud of them.”
Iowa takes a 33-17 record into this week’s Big Ten Conference Tournament at Omaha, Neb. It is the third seed, playing sixth-seeded Penn State (25-27) in a first-round game brightly and early Wednesday morning at 9 (BTN).
Maryland (44-10) won the Big Ten’s regular-season championship and is the tourney’s No. 1 seed. Rutgers (41-2) is second.
Iowa, Rutgers and Illinois tied for second place in the regular season with 17-7 conference records in the regular season. Tiebreakers seeded teams for the tournament.
It’s the second second-place finish for Iowa under Heller.
Michigan (5), Purdue (7) and Indiana (8) also qualified for the eight-team, double-elimination event. The winner gets an automatic bid to NCAA Division I regionals.
“With how the games went this weekend, not having a chance to play for a championship today, we still had a chance to tie for second place in the league, and that’s a big deal,” Heller said. “To get the third seed, I think that was a good thing, too.”
Should Iowa not win the Big Ten tournament, or make somewhat of a deep run in it, it’ll be sweating it out when it comes to the possibility of receiving an at-large NCAA berth.
Iowa had an official RPI of 54 through Sunday, with the number of regional qualifiers being 64. Conference tournament champs eat up a bunch of bids, so, obviously, the higher your RPI, the better chance you’ve got to get in.
The Big Ten was not especially strong this season. Only four teams finished with winning conference records and only Maryland (3) has a top-40 RPI.
Three of the eight teams in the Big Ten tournament have RPIs of 115 or higher. Iowa split a two-game home series with Texas Tech, which has a 37 RPI.
That is among the Hawkeyes’ top wins, along with taking two of three games at Rutgers (41 RPI). Iowa did not play Maryland.
So, again, a deep run in the Big Ten tournament would be really, really nice for Iowa. Winning the thing would be better.
An early exit could spell big trouble.
Play ball! Play good ball.
“We needed to have a grinder and find a way to get it done. We did that (Saturday night),” Heller said. “We were in some tough situations and fought out of it. Indiana’s pitching was outstanding tonight. When we let (Ty) Bothwell off the hook in the fifth, I thought it might come back to haunt us, but it held up.”
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