Could Iowa host NCAA baseball regional? Absolutely

Chad Leistikow
If Iowa were to host an NCAA regional at refurbished Duane Banks Field, it could accommodate up to about 3,200 fans.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – The University of Iowa has never hosted an NCAA baseball regional, but proper paperwork has been filed to make that an official possibility.

Whether it happens will likely depend on the Hawkeyes' win column.

"That would be a really big deal, not only for our program, but for the school in general to host a baseball regional," Iowa second-year coach Rick Heller said. "Something that maybe nobody would have ever thought in their wildest dreams would happen."

As Iowa racked up wins to start the season, Heller went to his boss, associate athletic director Fred Mims, to make sure the school would apply with the NCAA to be one of 16 regional hosts in the 64-team postseason tournament.

It was a proactive move, considering Iowa has only been in the NCAA Tournament three times — in 1972, 1975 and 1990 — in its 116-year history.

"We're rolling as if it's going to happen, so that we're prepared to do a great job with it when it does," Heller said. "Our administration's been really tremendous."

One of the biggest question marks about Iowa's ability to host is seating capacity at refurbished Duane Banks Field.

Iowa announced its April 26 crowd of 2,506 against Nebraska as a sellout. More temporary bleachers are being brought in for this weekend's final regular-season home series against Minnesota. Heller said for regional purposes, the stadium could accommodate about 3,200 fans, including standing-room only areas down the baselines.

Iowa is playing in its first season with a turf field and giant video board in the outfield.

"The actual playing facility is as good as anybody out there, and the amenities that we have in Iowa City — the hotels, the stuff for workouts in the football building, the other things that we have — it's really conducive to hosting a regional," Heller said. "We'd probably end up selling out, which is great, but ... the only downfall is our venue's not crazy-big. But there will be people that host regionals with the same size ballpark as ours."

The website moved Iowa into a No. 1 seed in its postseason projections released Wednesday, with the Hawkeyes hosting a regional with Southern California, Notre Dame and Central Michigan. The winner of each regional advances to a two-team super regional, and the final eight advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

"To play at home in a regional is a big deal," Heller said. "It gives you a huge advantage. It gives you more of a chance to get to the super regional, no question about it."

For Iowa to be home when regional play begins May 29 will require more success. The Hawkeyes bring a No. 15 national ranking, an RPI of 26 and a 34-12 overall record (15-3 in the Big Ten Conference) into the Minnesota series, which starts at 6:05 p.m. Friday. The Hawkeyes finish Big Ten play next week at Rutgers and have already clinched a spot in the May 20-24 conference tournament in Minneapolis.

The NCAA Selection Show is May 25.

"The biggest factor in us getting it," Heller said, "is how well we play down the stretch."

FORECASTING REGIONAL SITES has Iowa pegged as a No. 1 seed in its latest NCAA regional projections. A look at that website's outlook:

Projected regional hosts: LSU, UCLA, Texas A&M, Louisville, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Dallas Baptist, TCU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Miami (Fla.), Iowa, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Missouri State.

Iowa City projected seeds: (1) Iowa, (2) Southern California, (3) Notre Dame, (4) Central Michigan.