Whelan: 'This is going to be a fun one'

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — There is a buzz heading into University of Iowa baseball’s series opener against No. 30 Nebraska on Friday at Duane Banks Field.
The Hawkeyes have won three straight Big Ten series and sit fourth in the Big Ten standings with a 7-5 record, while the Huskers are 10-2 and atop the league standings.
“This is going to be a fun one,” said redshirt senior Chris Whelan. “It is the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry.  This is why you come to Iowa, this is what you play for.
“I have been comparing it to the weekend we had with Michigan last year. It’s going to be warm, a good team is coming to town, and there will be a lot of people in the crowd.”
Last season when Iowa welcomed the seventh-ranked Wolverines to Iowa City, Hawkeye fans came in droves as nearly 6,000 packed Banks Field to see the Hawkeyes take two of three games and end Michigan’s 20-game winning streak.
Senior Tanner Wetrich says it’s following a similar script with the hoopla surrounding Nebraska.
“(The Michigan series) was one of the biggest series since I have been here,” said Wetrich, who is riding a career-best seven-game hitting streak. “With all the hype about Nebraska being No. 1 in the conference, it’s the same series.
“We need to bring the same energy and focus to beat those guys.”
Since going 0-3 in their first Big Ten series at Indiana, the Hawkeyes have gone 7-2 in league play over their next three weekends.  Iowa swept 23rd-ranked Illinois in Iowa City from March 29-31 before taking two of three games from both Rutgers and at Purdue.
Nebraska, on the strength of a league-best 1.92 team ERA in Big Ten games, has rattled off three series wins, sweeping Michigan State, Purdue, and Penn State.  The Huskers’ only two losses came in a series at Minnesota from March 29-31.
“Nebraska is a team that is coached well, they play hard and the right way,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “Usually the games are hard-fought and tough games. Our guys look forward to the competition with them and I know Nebraska does as well.
“Regardless of where we sit in the standings, there is always going to be a big crowd and a lot of intensity in these games.”
The Hawkeyes are 9-3 against Nebraska under Heller, posting series wins in 2014, 2015, and 2017.  The teams split a two-game weather-shortened series in Lincoln last year and Iowa won three times in 2017, including a quarterfinal victory over the top-seeded Huskers in the Big Ten Tournament.
“The last two years we have had to go there, but it’s their turn to come here,” said Whelan. “We have had success against them and we’re ready for this weekend.”
Friday’s series opener is set for 6:05 p.m. (CT) and it is Military Appreciation Night at Duane Banks Field. There will be postgame fireworks.  Saturday is Hawkeye Football Day with Iowa football players signing pregame autographs, and Sunday there will be a postgame Easter egg hunt on the field.
Tickets to all three games are available at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.

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