The Iowa Hawkeyes are on the road at Michigan today as they try to keep in the race for the Big 10 baseball title. Coach Rick Heller’s team is 13-2 in the conference and just a half game behind Illinois and faces the Wolverines in the opening of the three-game set Friday. “This is a road trip that we knew when we looked a the schedule was going to be a tough one. Michigan has a very talented group. We played them four times last season and they knocked us off three times,” Heller says.
One of those loses came in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan is in fourth place in the Big Ten conference at 11-7. “They’re a team that I felt like going into the year that they had a chance to win the league. They have as much talent as anybody in the conference, their pitching is outstanding and they are arguably the best offensive team in the league. They pose an extra big challenge for us as they’ll run six or seven guys that are left-handed hitters in the lineup and our starting rotation is all right handers,” according to Heller.”We’re going to have to play our absolute best to beat them, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
This isn’t the only big weekend series in the conference. Illinois is at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes are right behind Iowa in the standings. “The standings could change dramatically in the next nine games. There’s three weekends left and a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of things are going to happen and change. We just need to take care of ourselves and hopefully continue to play the kind of baseball we’ve played to this point,” Heller says.
Iowa has made some great defensive plays and won some close games to keep in the conference race, and Heller says the way they play through this last stretch will determine is they can win it all. “It it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, but so far, so good with how our guys have approached each game,” Heller says. The first game today in Ann Arbor is set for 3 p.m., and then there are single games scheduled Saturday and Sunday. The Hawkeyes, who are 31-11, will host Minnesota and then go on the road to Rutgers in their final two Big Ten series.