by John Vittas
The Terps continue the meaty stretch of their schedule this weekend as they welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes to town. Iowa is ranked in four of the five major polls and provides another difficult test. They are an experienced team on-the-rise that has yet to lose a Big Ten game. Their 6-0 start is the best in school history.
The Hawkeyes are very similar to last week’s opponent, Nebraska, but a little more balanced. They rank sixth in hitting (.276), fourth in pitching (2.80) and second in defense (.980). Their bullpen isn’t as dominant as the Huskers’, but Iowa’s starting pitching is just as impressive.
Hawkeyes starters are 11-3 with a 2.39 ERA this season. In their six Big Ten wins, their weekend starters have only allowed 10 runs over 42 innings (2.14 ERA). They’ve played their best baseball on the weekends and haven’t lost a series all season.
Their contests have been won and lost in the early stages of the game. Iowa is 18-1 when leading after six innings, and 0-6 when trailing after eight. They’ve jumped on teams early, outscoring their opponents 25-7 in the first inning.
Iowa has thrived on the road this year, having played 22 of their first 29 games away from Iowa City. That success is due in large part to their experienced roster. Four of their starting position players have over 100 career starts, including catalyst Eric Toole.
Toole has started 161 games for the Hawkeyes and has started every game in the leadoff spot and centerfield this season. As you might expect, Toole leads the conference in stolen bases and is top-7 in hits, average and on-base-percentage. He’s batting .458 in Big Ten play and carries a 28-game streak of reaching base into this weekend’s series.
Joel Booker has started every game in right field this season and Jake Mangler has done the same at second base. Mangler is batting .340 with runners in scoring position, and Booker is hitting .317 in such situations.
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRI AT 6 PM
So. RHP Mike Shawaryn (7-0, 2.00) vs. Jr. RHP Tyler Peyton (4-2, 2.17)
There’s not much more you can say about Shawaryn. He’s a winner. Sunday marked the halfway point of the 2015 season, and the righty from New Jersey is two wins away from the school record…as a sophomore. If he gets the win Friday, he’ll move past Charles Devereux into second place all-time, and one away from Devereux’s teammate, John Rayne, who holds the school record. Shawaryn continues to lead the Big Ten in strikeouts and wins.
Tyler Peyton is an excellent two-way player, and has raised his pitching numbers considerably this year. He ranks sixth in the league in strikeouts (42), 11th in ERA (2.17) and 12th in innings pitched (45.2). Peyton tossed 14 straight scoreless innings to start his Big Ten season, which included a complete game shutout against a ranked Indiana team two weeks ago. He followed it up with eight innings of one-run ball against Purdue last weekend. He also went 4-for-9 as a hitter in those two games.
SAT AT 2 PM
So. LHP Tayler Stiles (3-2, 3.27) vs. Jr. RHP Blake Hickman (4-1, 3.13)
Stiles returned to the weekend rotation last Saturday and was outstanding. He struck out eight over seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits in a win against Nebraska. Head Coach John Szefc said the improvement of Stiles’ changeup has neutralized right handed bats and made him a much more effective pitcher.
Blake Hickman was drafted by the Cubs out of high school and had been a two-way player for Iowa until this year. The transition to the mound exclusively has gone well, as the Chicago native has completed six innings in five of his last six starts. Hickman is holding opponents to a .212 average, a mark that is good for seventh in the Big Ten.
SUN AT NOON
Jr. RHP Kevin Mooney (0-0, 1.64) vs. Jr. RHP Calvin Mathews (3-0, 1.25)
Mooney will be making his third start of the season and his second as the Sunday starter. The long-time closer had his worst outing of the season against Nebraska last week. He only lasted three innings while allowing four walks and five runs (2 earned). His fastball command was not where it normally is, and he’ll look to correct things against the Hawkeyes.
Calvin Mathews has not pitched as deep as the other two Iowa starters, but he has been the most effective. His 1.25 ERA ranks third in the conference, and his .227 opponents’ average is top ten. A former Friday night starter, Mathews has only given up four earned runs in seven starts and hasn’t allowed more than five hits in any game this season. The bad news for the junior is that he has yet to pitch past the sixth inning as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury.