Big Ten Tournament Preview: Iowa
The regular season Big Ten Champion Indiana Hoosiers will look to build upon their success as they begin play in the Big Ten Tournament Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska.
As the No. 1 seed in the Tourney, the Hoosiers will take on the No. 8 seed, Iowa, on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Only the top eight teams in the regular season conference standings make the Big Ten Tournament and it is in a double elimination format. Every first-round game starts on Wednesday and the tournament will conclude by Sunday.
The tournament is split into two separate double-elimination brackets of four teams each with the two winners of the individual brackets playing each other in the championship game.
Indiana’s bracket consists of No. 4 seed Minnesota and No. 5 seed Nebraska along with Indiana and Iowa.
Bracket 1 includes the match-ups of No. 3 seed Illinois vs No. 6 seed Maryland and No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 7 Illinois.
The full bracket is listed below:
— Big Ten Baseball (@B1Gbaseball) May 19, 2019
Now, let’s take a closer look at Indiana’s first round match-up with the Hawkeyes.
Regular Season Meetings with Iowa
The Hoosiers and Hawkeyes last met on the weekend of March 22, the first series of Big Ten play for the season.
Throughout the entire series, Indiana had Iowa’s number as the Hoosiers swept them with relative ease.
In the Saturday and Sunday games Indiana beat Iowa 13-1 and 7-1, respectively. The Friday game was the only one of the series with a close final score of 3-2.
At the same time, Indiana had control and was leading the entire game until the ninth inning. Logan Kaletha’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth brought home Cole Barr for a dramatic Indiana victory. The Friday game was the one instance the Hoosiers struggled to score against the Hawkeyes.
The Iowa series was also the last time Kaletha has seen the field for the Hoosiers. The senior outfielder got injured in the Sunday game of the series and hasn’t had any playing time since.
As a team, Iowa has a strong presence with the bats. Iowa’s team batting average stands at .269, fourth best in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes are also ranked third in the conference in on-base percentage (.368) and fifth in hits (477).
Over the course of the season, Iowa’s bats put up an average of 5.3 runs per game and 9.2 hits per game. As good as of a contact hitting team as the Hawkeyes have been, they do struggle with hitting the long ball. Iowa has only hit 29 home runs on the year which ranks them eighth in the conference.
Iowa’s top two bats are sophomore Izaya Fullard and junior Austin Martin, the roster’s only two players who have an above .300 batting average.
Fullard is hitting for a team-best .310 batting average and is tied with Martin for the most RBIs on the team with 30. Fullard has shown strong plate discipline, taking 22 walks and only striking out 25 times in 187 at-bats. The sophomore is more of a contact hitter as well, he has only five home runs on the season with a total of 13 extra base hits.
Martin’s stats are pretty similar to Fullard as his batting average is just barely lower with a .307 mark and as mentioned before, he has the same number of RBIs with 30. Martin has 21 walks, 14 extra base hits and two home runs too.
The pitching duel between the clubs should be excellent as both teams will pitch their usual Friday starters, the best arm on each team.
Indiana will have senior righthander Pauly Milto on the mound to start who has been fantastic for the Hoosiers all season. Milto owns an 8-5 record, 94 strikeouts and 16 walks with a 3.51 ERA on the season. Milto has only allowed three home runs on the year as well.
In his start against Iowa earlier in the season, Milto was very dominant against the Hawkeyes. He went 8.1 innings when he allowed seven hits and two runs while striking out 10 batters. Both runs were scored in the ninth inning when he stayed in to try and finish the complete game.
Iowa’s pitching is something that they struggle with a bit more than their hitting, evident from their 4.51 average team ERA. At the same time, their starting pitching is very strong and that should be the case for the Hawkeyes on Wednesday.
Iowa will start a righthanded senior pitcher too in Cole McDonald. The senior ace has been a reliable arm and Friday starter all year for the Hawkeyes as indicated by his 74 strikeouts.
McDonald also has a 3.78 ERA, 28 walks and only three home runs allowed with a 5-3 record for the season.
Against Indiana on March 22, when the two schools as well as Milto and McDonald battled the first time around this year, McDonald did a great job against the Hoosiers. He struck out 11 batters, walked one, gave up six hits and just two runs in one of his best starts of the season.
Whoever delivers the better pitching performance between McDonald and Milto this time around could very well determine which team wins. Indiana has struggled at times against Friday starters, so that could play into the hands of the Hawkeyes.