Iowa baseball heads east to test perfect Big Ten mark

Chad Leistikow
Iowa head baseball coach Rick Heller hopes to keep the hot play going at Maryland this week. Iowa swept Indiana and Purdue to start the Big Ten season.

A veteran coach like Rick Heller knows that success can sometimes vanish quicker than it came.

"It's an exciting time for Iowa baseball," Heller acknowledged this week. "We also know it can change in a heartbeat."

That's the mantra for the Hawkeye baseball program, which is off to a program-best 6-0 Big Ten Conference start. Up next will be one of the biggest challenges to date: A three-game series at 16th-ranked Maryland that begins at 5:30 p.m. (CT) Friday in College Park, Md.

Under the second season of Heller's direction, Iowa will arrive at Bob "Turtle" Smith Stadium with a No. 15 ranking by Collegiate Baseball in front of its name. This is the highest the Hawkeyes have been ranked at any time since 1990, when that team rose to No. 13 in Baseball America's poll.

Again, the message for Iowa (21-8 overall): stay grounded.

"As soon as we start thinking we're pretty good, we're probably going to get beat," Heller said. "So we keep moving forward, and try to keep that chip on our shoulder, and keep going after people."

The Hawkeyes' 1-2-3 pitching punch has fueled league-opening sweeps of Indiana and Purdue. Starters Tyler Peyton, Blake Hickman and Calvin Mathews have combined for a 5-0 record and 2.14 ERA in their six Big Ten starts.

Iowa's team ERA of 2.80 ranks fourth in the Big Ten. Maryland, which owns a 7-2 Big Ten mark, will put that to the test with its .289 batting average. The new-to-the-league Terrapins swept Nebraska last weekend.

"If you look around at what's going on in the league, it's amazing," Heller said. "We're going to get a taste of that this weekend with Maryland, and we've got Nebraska yet to come (April 24-26). Northwestern plays everybody tough. There's no easy wins."


Matchup: No. 15 Iowa (21-8, 6-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 16 Maryland (23-8, 7-2)

When, where: Friday through Sunday in College Park, Md.

Start times (CT): 5:30 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. Sunday

TV broadcast: BTN Plus and BTN2GO will air the Saturday/Sunday games.

Radio: KXIC-AM (800), KMJM-AM (1360) and (subscription required).