116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – The topic is Big Ten Conference baseball.
Specifically, the number of teams in the league that will end up qualifying for the NCAA’s postseason. You don’t know, the coaches and players don’t know.
No one knows.
There’s still quite a bit of season to go, for one thing. The question of how a conference-only schedule with no Big Ten tournament plays into it is another.
It’s difficult to fully know just how good the Big Ten is since its teams had a later start to their seasons and are only playing each other. Will that ultimately hurt the conference?
Iowa Coach Rick Heller bristles when asked that question. He says the league is as good as it’s ever been, and the selection committee picking the regional field should know that.
But he acknowledges it’s something that concerns him and his fellow Big Ten coaches.
“I’m worried about it. I think all of us are,” said Heller, whose red-hot Hawkeyes rallied past Maryland, 6-2, Friday night at Banks Field. “Even though they say they don’t know, they do know how good our league is this year. Our schedule, without playing any non-conference, is tougher than anybody in the country. Every game we play is against a great team.
“We didn’t have four weeks to play whoever we wanted to play to build up RPI or build up your record prior to conference starting. We don’t have midweek games to do the same thing.”
The RPI ratings the NCAA is using has Iowa as its top Big Ten team, though that ranking is only 40. This win gives the Hawkeyes a 16-10 record and solidifies fourth place for them, behind Nebraska, Michigan and Indiana, in that order.
Heller said you shouldn’t pay usual attention this season to the RPI because of the Big Ten not playing any crossover games against opponents.
“So, to me, it would be as wrong as it could possibly be for them to hold that against us, when everyone in the country knows the Big Ten is stacked this year and is as good as it’s ever been,” Heller said. “To hold that against the kids because we were forced to play conference only (would be wrong). We had no say in that, none of us could change it.”
Heller points out how every single Big Ten game has taken on a dramatically increased importance.
“Then when you look at it logically, what we’re doing right now is as tough as anyone in the country,” he said. “We have no midweek games to play, every game has a max amount of pressure on it. Has from the start.”
Here’s really the bottom line for Iowa. Just keep doing what it’s doing, and it’ll be a regional qualifier somewhere. No doubt.
The Hawks have 12 of their last 14 games, including this one against a team from Maryland (13-13) right behind them in the standings and coming off a three-game sweep of Ohio State. The Terrapins knocked out Iowa ace pitcher Trenton Wallace in the fifth inning and took a 2-0 lead midway through the sixth.
The rest of the game, though belonged to Iowa. A three-run bottom of the sixth was highlighted by Brendan Sher’s huge two-out, two-run double to right-center that gave the Hawkeyes a 3-2 lead and knocked out Maryland starting pitcher Sean Burke.
Burke’s got really good stuff and struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings but may have been pushed a little too far here, leaving after throwing pitch 117 to Sher, who was able to get good aluminum on a vaunted Burke curveball that is a true 12-to-6er.
“Quite a few people have been asking me. I don’t really know what I was thinking there, honestly,” Sher said. “I was a little late on the the fastball he threw me, so I thought he might go back to it. Then I thought ’Well, I know he’s got that good curveball.’ I think I just adjusted. It’s a good pitch, breaks down really hard, a true 12-6. I adjusted, it ended up being in the zone, and I ended up putting a pretty good swing on it.”
Back-to-back squeeze-bunt plays gave Iowa two more runs in the seventh, and Iowa added a sixth in the ninth.
Peyton Williams and Zeb Adreon both went 2-for-4 in the game for Iowa, with a run and RBI apiece. Dylan Nedved started the game at second base but ended it by throwing three shutout relief innings out of the bullpen for the save.
Trace Hoffman got the victory in relief. Iowa hosts Maryland again Saturday afternoon, then hosts Northwestern on Sunday and Monday afternoons.
Comments: (319)-398-8258, firstname.lastname@example.org