Northwestern Baseball Series Preview: @ Iowa

After a Wednesday night win over cross-county rival UIC, the Wildcats are riding some positive momentum heading into their weekend series in Iowa City against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Northwestern beat the UIC Flames in exciting 4-3 fashion at Curtis Granderson Stadium to improve to 10-24 overall on the 2015 season. Down 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning, the Wildcats used a four-hit, three-run rally to take their second lead of the game. The Flames got one back in the ninth, and nearly scored the tying run, but center-fielder Kyle Ruchim threw a potential game-tying runner out at the plate with two outs to secure the win.

Joe Hoscheit, who posted a scoreless inning of relief in the seventh, got credited with the win while Jake Stolley got the save, thanks to two innings of one-run ball. Ruchim–NU’s batting leader with a .357 batting average in 28 games–led the way with two hits.

Now, the Wildcats look to possibly get back to .500 in conference play with a three-game set versus the Hawkeyes, a team tied  with Illinois at the top of the Big Ten with a 8-1 conference record. Iowa is 24-10 overall and recently took two out of three on the road at Maryland, one of the conference’s better teams.

The Hawkeyes, ranked 18th in the latest NCAA polls, are not a big home run team by any standard–they have just nine long balls on the season–but have a team batting average of .268 while allowing a meager .223 to their opponents. Tyler Peyton (.351/.421/.412) and Eric Toole (.333/.417/.418) are Iowa’s big hitters–they bat first and third in the lineup respectively–and they each had hits in Iowa’s win over Cornell College on Wednesday.

Peyton also happens to be one of the Hawkeyes’ better pitchers (2.82 ERA in nine starters) and combined with other starters Calvin Matthews (1.32 ERA with a .227 batting average against in 41 innings) and Blake Hickman (2.91 ERA with .203 BAA), forms a dominant rotation.

Northwestern, struggling to stay relevant in the Big Ten conversation, will have its hands full this weekend against one of the nation’s top teams on both ends of the field. Also, considering none of those guys have pitched this week, Iowa will throw its top arms out there against the Wildcats. That certainly doesn’t make things any easier.

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