IOWA CITY, Ia. – Friday marks the start of one of Iowa's biggest baseball series of the season, and maybe in the last 25 years.
The 17th-ranked Hawkeyes play host to No. 25 Nebraska for three games at Duane Banks Field. A week ago, in winning two out of three games against Northwestern, Iowa drew some of its largest baseball crowds that anyone can remember — 1,588 on Friday and 1,961 for Saturday's doubleheader. The surge of the program, as well as new stadium infrastructure, has created an enjoyable run under second-year coach Rick Heller.
Weather cooperating, the crowds could be bigger this weekend. Iowa (27-11 overall, 10-2 Big Ten Conference) is a half-game behind Illinois in the league standings as it attempts to win its first conference title since 1990. Nebraska (30-13, 6-6), meanwhile, brings a hefty baseball pedigree and a fervent fan base under coach Darin Erstad, a former big-league player.
In an effort to draw crossover fans, Iowa moved its Saturday game to 3 p.m. — which should coincide nicely with the conclusion of Iowa's 1 p.m. spring football game next door at Kinnick Stadium.
At stake: Iowa has won five consecutive Big Ten series for the first time since 1990; it has never won six in a row.
Here are some more need-to-know facts for the Iowa-Nebraska series:
Game times: 4 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.
Video: All three games will be streamed live on Hawkeye All-Access (subscription required) at hawkeyesports.com.
Radio: All three games will air on KMJM-AM (1360), Cedar Rapids.
Pitching matchups: Friday — Iowa RH Tyler Peyton (4-3, 2.83 ERA) vs. RH Chance Sinclair (5-5, 3.30); Saturday — Iowa RH Blake Hickman (6-1, 2.56) vs. LH Kyle Kubat (4-2, 2.19); Sunday — Iowa RH Calvin Mathews (3-1, 2.01) vs. RH Derek Burkamper (4-1, 3.65).
Quick facts: Iowa ranks No. 8 in the country in hits allowed per nine innings (7.3). ... Hawkeye SS Nick Roscetti is batting .419 in Big Ten play and is hitting .392 in April. ... Iowa has an RPI of 34; Nebraska's is 17. ... The Hawkeyes have at least 10 hits in four of their last five games. ... Iowa has outscored opponents 26-10 in the first inning. ... Nebraska has three Iowans on its roster in Austin Christiansen (Cedar Rapids), Ben Miller (Clive) and Burkamper (Muscatine).