April 8, 2010
THE SETTING: Due to rain, Iowa will return to conference play looking to improve its sixth place standing in the Big Ten having had four days without a game. The Hawkeyes host Illinois in a three-game series Friday-Sunday. Game one is set for Friday at 6:05 p.m. at Duane Banks Field. Tickets are $3 for adults and free for UI students and youths. This will be the first league competition between the two teams since 2007, where Iowa won three of four in Iowa City.
ON THE NET: Iowa baseball fans can follow the Hawkeyes, as live stats will be available on hawkeyesports.com. Just click on the Gametracker link found on both the front page and the baseball schedule page. Whistlin' Ray Gilmore enters his 33rd season with the Hawkeye baseball program and will be posting the stats.
ON THE RADIO: Hawkeye fans can catch most Hawkeye games on AM-800 KXIC. The Voice of the Hawkeyes, Brent Balbinot, will handle the play-by-play. The three-game Illinois series will be broadcast on the radio and online.
ON THE BTN: Iowa fans can watch the conference home opening series at Duane Banks Field online. Go to video.bigtennetwork.com and pay a $2.99 fee to watch this weekend's series. SCOUTING ILLINOIS: Illinois is 12-11 and part of the five-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with a 2-1 record after taking two-of-three from Penn State last week. The Illini are led, offensively, by sophomore outfielder Willie Argo. Argo leads the team with a .415 batting average, a .510 on base percentage as well as 16 walks and 18 stolen bases. As a team, Illinois is hitting .321 and have stolen 57 bases. Friday night starter Will Strack has a 5.74 ERA and a 1-1 record with six starts. The righty has thrown 31.1 innings and struck out 24, to lead the team.
`Q' GETS GOING:After getting banged up a bit in Texas Mike McQuillan is starting to get back in the groove of things, offensively. McQuillan is hitting the second-highest average on the team (.344). In Iowa's past five games, the sophomore has gone 12-for-22 with seven runs scored and above a .500 slugging percentage.
BIG TEN OPENER VICTORY:With a gem of a pitching performance from Jarred Hippen, Iowa picked up its first conference-opening win since a 9-5 triumph over Michigan in 2003. Besides that, Iowa had won six of its last seven games and snapped Michigan State's 11-game win streak.
TOSSING A COMPLETE ONE: Southpaw Jarred Hippen went the extra mile Friday against Michigan State. The starter tossed a complete game, the first of his career and earned the win. Hippen allowed three runs off seven hits and striking out two. The last Hawkeye to throw a complete nine was Nate Johnson in 2004.
SLUGGING A SCHOOL RECORD: Junior Zach McCool went 5-for-6 from the leadoff spot for Iowa in its series finale against the Spartans on Sunday. McCool's five hits ties a single-game school record, last achieved by former Hawkeye standout, Justin Toole, in 2008.
McCOOL SWINGS IT: Zach McCool had a stellar series against Michigan State. The junior played in two games, starting one. He went 7-for-8 with three runs scored, two RBI, a stolen base and three doubles.
MOTHER NATURE CALLS IT: Rain postponed and cancelled both of Iowa's midweek contests. The Hawkeyes were scheduled to host Western Illinois Tuesday. However, due to rain, the fourth of five games against the Leathernecks was postponed and will be rescheduled. Iowa was also set to take on the Iowa Cubs in an exhibition game Wednesday at Principal Park. Unfortunately, the game was cancelled due to rain and will not be rescheduled.
MULLER IS SIDELINED: Junior leadoff hitter Kurtis Muller has been sidelined with a hamstring injury he sustained in the two-game series against South Dakota State. It is hopeful he will play this weekend. Muller leads the Hawkeye offense in batting average (.407), runs (20), hits (33), doubles (7), triples (2), total bases (44), slugging percentage (.543), walks (11), on base percentage (.489), stolen bases (15) and fielding percentage (1.000).
TAKING ONE FROM MSU: Iowa went 2-1 in East Lansing, MI last weekend in its Big Ten opening series. The Hawkeyes took game one, 5-3. But were outslugged the remaining two games, losing 16-2 and 26-11. Leading Iowa, offensively, were Ryan Durant, Mike McQuillan and Zach McCool. The trio combined to go 20-for-33 with 10 runs scored, seven doubles and 10 RBI. McCool slugged a whopping 1.250 on the weekend. Iowa pitching staff was led by starter Jarred Hippen's complete game.
STREAKING HAWKEYES: Kurtis Muller leads the Hawkeyes with a nine-game hitting streak intact. The last game Muller played in was the series finale against South Dakota State. Mike McQuillan is on a season-long six game hitting streak while Ryan Durant picked up a hit in all three games against MSU to be on a current three-game string. Muller and McQuillan lead Iowa with 11 multi-hit games and Durant has a team-best five multi-RBI games.
THREE-GAME SWEEP: The Hawkeyes swept Western Illinois in three in their home opening series last weekend. With two come from behind ninth inning thrillers the Hawkeyes got their first sweep since 2007. (Iowa swept Indiana in a three-game home series.) In the series, Kurtis Muller went a stellar 5-for-11 with five runs scored, three RBI and a perfect 6-for-6 on the base path.
WHERE THE HAWKEYES RANK: Kurtis Muller and several Hawkeyes making a splash in conference statistics. Muller ranks in the top ten in; batting average (6th), on base percentage (5th) and stolen bases (5th). Sean Flanagan and Ryan Durant rank fourth in hit by pitches. Jarred Hippen ranks in the top ten in the following statistical categories: ERA (6th), opposing batting average (10th), innings pitched (2nd), batters struck out looking (1st) and games started (2nd). Phil Schreiber ranks econd in starts. Kevin Lee ranks first in saves and eighth in games finished. Kurt Lee ranks fifth in assists while Kurtis Muller are tied for first in fielding percentage (1.000).
JACOBS LEADS BULLPEN: Michael Jacobs has been effective in the bullpen this season. The reliever leads Iowa's pitchers from the pen. Jacobs has the second lowest ERA (4.40) and is tied for most appearances (11).