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. — There is one sure fire way for the University of Iowa baseball team to continue its season past this week at TD Ameritrade Park. Defend its Big Ten Tournament title.
The Hawkeyes begin that quest Wednesday as the No. 6 seed, facing third-seeded Michigan at 9 a.m. (CT) in Omaha. Iowa is on the NCAA bubble after finishing the regular season 33-18, but with a strong showing in the conference tournament, the Hawkeyes could play their way back into the NCAA conversation.
“If we can go there, play well and find a way to win a couple of games, it is going to enhance our chances with an at-large,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “We’re the defending champions, so we want to go out, have a good showing, give it a good run and try to win the tournament again.”
The Hawkeyes have experience and confidence to do just that. Iowa has gone 7-2 over the last two Big Ten Tournaments, advancing to the title game in 2016 in Omaha before winning its first ever tournament title last season in Bloomington, Indiana.
“In our minds, we’re the team to beat right now,” said redshirt junior Chris Whelan, who was named third-team All-Big Ten on Tuesday.
The Hawkeyes’ opening round test is Michigan, a team Iowa took two of three games from in Iowa City from April 27-29. First-team All-Big Ten selection Nick Allgeyer will battle the Wolverines’ Tommy Henry in a rematch of the April 27 series opener– a game Iowa won 4-2 to end Michigan’s then 20-game winning streak.
“They have a lot of good hitters up and down the lineup,” said Allgeyer, who has 12 quality starts in 14 outings this season. “They’re one of the tougher teams we have faced. Mixing speeds and hitting locations will be key. It’s like that against anyone you play.”
The Hawkeyes know they are in for a battle against Michigan. It’s the start of a grueling week, both mentally and physically, but they have experience to fall back on.
“There are a lot of returning guys that played in the tournament and know what to expect,” said senior Tyler Cropley, who was the first-team All-Big Ten catcher Tuesday. “You have to get through it one day at a time.”
That is the Hawkeye mantra.
“It’s taking a step back, taking a deep break and not getting too caught up in the moment or each game and thinking ahead,” said Whelan, who last season was the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament. “You have to take it one game at a time like we did last year and keep it rolling like that.
“You can’t overthink it or get too nervous about anything. We have a lot of experience and we have a few younger guys, but the World University Games in Taiwan (where the team was silver medalist) helped out with a lot of confidence in big situations like that. We’re ready to go; it’s one game at a time at this point.”
Wednesday’s game and the duration of the Big Ten Tournament will be televised live on BTN. Brandon Gaudin and Danan Hughes will be on the call for game one Wednesday.