The Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team is back in action in less than a month and they’re gunning for their second Big Ten title in six years.
Despite losing a great core of talent from last year’s 33-19 team, the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team’s expectations remain sky-high thanks to head coach Rick Heller who has truly been a breath of fresh air for a once-stagnant program.
Since Heller took the helm of the baseball team, they have won at least thirty games in every single season and advanced to the NCAA Regionals twice while claiming the Big Ten tournament title once. Moreover, he has twenty players drafted by the MLB in that time span, which certainly helps on the recruiting trail for the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team.
So although they are losing their top four hitters, the Hawks are expected to still remain competitive in the Big Ten by relying on Preseason All-Big Ten pitcher Cole McDonald who went 3-2 last season with a 3.23 ERA in 11 starts to man the front end of the rotation. With him in the rotation are three of last year’s top seven pitchers (outside of McDonald of course) who are Trenton Wallace, Zach Dreyer, and Grant Judkins.
Offensively, where the Hawks may be missing a few of their top guys from last year, they have high expectations for the guys coming up to fill the void left by the departures of Tyler Cropley, Robert Neustrom, and Matt Hoeg who were three of the top four hitters on the team (with enough appearances to qualify).
Senior outfielder and captain Chris Whelan, who hit .308 in 156 at bats last year is expected to move up in the lineup, and he will be joined by junior third baseman Lorenzo Elion (.275 average in 142 at bats) and senior second baseman (and captain) Mitchell Boe (.266 average in 154 at bats).
Joining these guys will be an incoming class of 11 recruits and one 2017 recruit who is finally healthy, current backup point guard, Connor McCaffery. During the Fall exhibition series, McCaffery looked good enough to impress coach Rick Heller and may have bought himself some playing time in the lineup once the basketball season is over.
Spring practice for the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team began team practice yesterday and Iowa begins their quest for a Big Ten title and a NCAA tournament birth on February 15 when they take on George Mason in the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series.