The Iowa baseball team's attempt to extend its school-record six consecutive Big Ten Conference series wins to seven will be a stiff challenge.
The 15th-ranked Hawkeyes visit Michigan — the team that knocked them out of last year's Big Ten tournament — for a three-game series, beginning at 3 p.m. CT Friday in Ann Arbor.
"They're getting guys healthy at the right time," Iowa coach Rick Heller said. "They're playing really good baseball, and they're tough at home."
The Hawkeyes have won nine straight series overall and haven't had a losing weekend all season in assembling a 31-11 record (13-2 Big Ten). They're a half-game behind Big Ten-leading Illinois (37-6-1, 13-1), which will put an 18-game winning streak on the line in a series at third-place Ohio State (31-10, 12-3).
With .313 hitter Nick Day (back) expected to miss his third straight Big Ten series and No. 1 pitcher and .354 hitter Tyler Peyton bothered by a foot injury, the Hawkeyes are hobbling into Ann Arbor.
Blake Hickman (7-1, 2.62 ERA) will get the ball for his first-ever Friday-night Big Ten start. The hope is Peyton, who threw 81/3 terrific innings Sunday against Nebraska, can go Saturday.
Michigan (27-17, 11-7) leads the Big Ten with a .301 batting average and .386 on-base percentage.
"Matchup-wise, it's a challenging one for us," Heller said. "All of us know how good they are and how talented they are. If they put it all together, they're a team that can make a really big run at the end of the year."
UP NEXT FOR THE HAWKEYES
Matchup: Iowa (31-11, 13-2 Big Ten) at Michigan (27-17, 11-7)
Game times (CT): Friday, 3 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon.
Where: Wilpon Complex in Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: Saturday's game will air on Big Ten Network.
Radio: KMJM-AM (1360) will air Friday and Saturday games, with in-progress airings on KXIC-AM (800) throughout the weekend. All three games are available via subscription-based Hawkeye All-Access on hawkeyesports.com.
Probable pitching matchups: Friday, Iowa RH Blake Hickman (7-1, 2.62 ERA) vs. RH Jacob Cronenworth (2-4, 3.55); Saturday, Iowa RH Tyler Peyton (5-3, 2.60) vs. RH Ryan Nutof (4-3, 3.03); Sunday, Iowa RH Calvin Mathews (3-1, 1.98 ERA) vs. LH Brett Adcock (6-3, 3.81).
Hawkeye stats: In Big Ten play, Iowa ranks third in hitting (.296), third in pitching (2.60 ERA) and second in fielding (.977). ... The Hawkeyes are 22-3 when they score first, 9-8 when their opponent does. ...Senior reliever Nick Hibbing leads an Iowa bullpen that is 16-6 with a 2.78 ERA and 14 saves. Hibbing hasn't walked a batter since his first appearance of the season vs. Kansas State. ... Jake Mangler (.328 average) leads the team with 18 multi-hit games and 31 RBI and has started every game at second base.