B1G Tournament Preview: Hawkeyes Hoping for Run

May 21, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa enters the Big Ten Tournament lugging a five-game losing streak behind it. Despite the skid, coach Rick Heller and his Hawkeyes aren’t worried. They welcome the challenge of having to win the championship to secure an NCAA berth.

They believe the late-season swoon took place because of some bad luck and running into hot teams in Michigan State and Maryland. Their confidence is not shaken.

“We’re still, in my opinion, one of the best teams in the Big Ten. We’re looking at it that we’re going to take it head-on. It’s a new season for us,” senior second baseman Mitchell Boe said.

That campaign kicks off Wednesday when eighth-seeded Iowa (30-22) takes on No. 1 Indiana (36-19) at 5 p.m. CT at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park. The winner advances to face the winner of the Minnesota-Nebraska contest at 9 p.m. Thursday in the double-elimination tournament. All games can be views on BTN.

The Hoosiers swept Iowa in the opening conference series for both programs. They slipped by the Hawkeyes, 3-2, in the opener before outscoring them 20-2 over the final two contests.

Despite the outcome earlier this season, Iowa welcomes the opportunity for another crack at the Big Ten champs. It does not feel its performance in Bloomington represents who it is.

“Going into this weekend, we’ve got a little something to prove. We’re going to come out and try to make a statement right away,” Boe said.

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Said Hawkeye coach Rick Heller: “I know they’re the champions and they have a really, really good team, so don’t take this the wrong way – win or lose, I know our guys want a chance to go play them again and at least let them know the type of team we really are.”

Senior right-hander Cole McDonald will be tasked with getting Iowa off the right way. He heads into Wednesday’s game confident after tossing seven innings of two-run baseball with 11 strikeouts the first time he faced Indiana this season.

“Indiana, that was my best start of the season. I’m definitely going to look back and see what made he effective, especially with them having a lot of guys that can hit home runs,” he said.

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The 21st-ranked Hoosiers led the nation with 90 homers this year. They did a lot of that damage at home, where their park is conducive to the long ball.

Indiana will send right-hander Paul Milto (8-5, 3.51 ERA) to the mound against the Hawkeyes Wednesday. He allowed one earned run in 8 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts in a no decision when facing Iowa earlier this season.

“There’s really no reason to focus on what happened the last two weeks,” senior outfielder Chris Whelan said. “You just have to move past it and reset your mind. We all know what we’re capable of. We’ve done it the last two months.”

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Prior to the skid, the Hawkeyes were thought to be positioned for an NCAA at-large bid. That changed with their finish, leaving them with the scenario of winning the Big Ten Tournament or the season ending.

“The Big Ten Tournament always seems like a war of attrition,” Whelan said. “It’s always close. We’re coming in as the eighth seed. We could be the one seed.”

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