May 25, 2016
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
OMAHA, Neb. — The University of Iowa baseball team is looking to carry its late-season momentum into this week’s Big Ten Tournament.
The Hawkeyes, who clinched their third straight postseason berth with a road series win — their first of the season — at Penn State, will face Big Ten regular season champion and top-seeded Minnesota today at 5 p.m. (CT) at TD Ameritrade Park.
“We’ve played well the last couple of Big Ten series,” said senior Tyler Peyton. “It’s about staying hot and riding that momentum into the Big Ten Tournament.”
“It’s good to know that we’re going into the tournament feeling good about ourselves. We know they’re a good team and we have to play well, but on the other hand, our guys believe if they play well they can win.”
UI head coach Rick Heller
The Hawkeyes’ confidence is soaring after winning five of their final seven games to close out the regular season. After losing the series opener May 13 against Michigan State, Iowa reeled off a season-best five-game winning streak before falling in extra innings in the regular season finale.
“We’re all confident after going on the run we’ve been on the last two weekends and who we did it against,” said senior Joel Booker, a first-team All-Big Ten outfielder. “We know what we’re capable of and we’ve known all year. We just haven’t put it together until now.”
The late-season success has can be attributed to a combination of quality pitching and a resurgent offense combined with rock-solid defense.
Peyton has been unhittable on the mound, going 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his last three starts and allowing just eight hits in 23 scoreless innings. Offensively, Iowa is hitting .304 as a team over its last 10 games.
“It’s good to know that we’re going into the tournament feeling good about ourselves,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “We’ve had decent success against Minnesota the last three years, and even though we lost two of three games this year, our guys felt like we were right there in the two we lost.
“We know they’re a good team and we have to play well, but on the other hand, our guys believe if they play well they can win.”
The Hawkeyes have proven they can perform under pressure over the last two weeks, as they needed to win to just qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.
“Playing with our backs against the wall helps a lot because it’s not like we haven’t been through adversity when it comes that time,” said Booker. “We’ve been there, have done it, and know how to go through and succeed with it.”
The road to the Big Ten Tournament title is there for the taking. Minnesota came out on top of the regular season standings with 16 wins, but just four games separated the Gophers from the 10th place team.
“The tournament is wide open this year,” said Peyton. “There are a lot of great teams in the Big Ten this year, but at the same time it’s wide open.”
That’s why momentum is key. Iowa is peaking at the right time and playing its best baseball. That could translate to an exciting week in Omaha.
“We’re one of the hottest teams,” said Peyton. “It’s better to finish strong toward the later part of the season. In this tournament, you don’t know who’s going to come out on top.”