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On paper, the Iowa baseball team has a decided advantage against Northwestern for this weekend's three-game series.

That's exactly why this could be a tricky spot for the surprising Big Ten Conference co-leaders.

"We're well aware they're a dangerous team," Iowa coach Rick Heller said. "We'll approach it that way."

Iowa, ranked No. 14 by Collegiate Baseball, is coming off a big series win at Maryland — and next week hosts perennial heavyweight Nebraska.

Sandwiched in between (in a classic "trap" spot) are the Wildcats, who proved last spring they can be a pesky bunch. Northwestern — 10-24 overall, 3-6 in the Big Ten this year — scored 11 unanswered runs to overcome a 13-3 seventh-inning deficit against the Hawkeyes in a series opener at Evanston, Ill., a season ago.

Back to this year's on-paper advantage: Iowa brings a sparkling staff ERA of 2.94 into the series, which begins at 6:05 p.m. Friday at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes, tied with Illinois at 8-1 in league play, have allowed two runs or less in 20 of their 24 wins overall (to 10 losses).

Northwestern has a team ERA of 5.66.

At the plate, the Wildcats are free-swingers — having scored 19 runs in a win over Minnesota. They are batting .278 to Iowa's .268, but are last in the Big Ten by a wide margin at drawing walks (at 2.3 a game).

Iowa pitchers are ranked No. 7 in the country in hits allowed per nine innings (7.27) and No. 12 in fielding percentage (.979).

Still, Heller said, "You're going to have to play well to beat them. We learned that last year."

UP NEXT: IOWA BASEBALL

Matchup: Three-game series between Iowa (24-10, 8-1 Big Ten) and Northwestern (10-24, 3-6) at Banks Field, Iowa City.

Start times, promotions: Friday, 6:05 p.m. (first 250 fans get free Iowa baseball tumblers); Saturday, 2 p.m. (free inflatables for kids and first 250 fans get key chains); Sunday, 1 p.m. (military appreciation day; free admission with military I.D.)

On TV: Video stream available at BTN Plus on BTN2GO.

On radio: KXIC-AM (800), KMJM-AM (1360) and at Hawkeyesports.com (subscription required).

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