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Baseball: Ohio State prepares for tough Iowa rotation in weekend series

Ohio State then-freshman third baseman Conner Pohl bats in the bottom of the seventh inning against North Carolina Greensboro. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Assistant Sports Editor

Fresh off a series victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers and a 22-hit, 15-run offensive explosion Sunday, the Ohio State baseball team travels to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes in a three-game weekend series.

The Buckeyes (19-8, 2-1 Big Ten) have kept the offensive fire stoked with hits throughout the batting order.

“It’s not very common for the bottom of the lineup to be hitting extra-base hits, home runs,” redshirt junior designated hitter Nate Romans said. “It just shows how hard it is to pitch to this lineup one through nine.”

On the flipside, the Hawkeyes (16-9, 3-2 Big Ten) have relied on a productive starting rotation to carry them deep into games. With the series pushed back a day due to weather, Friday night starter Nick Allgeyer will take the hill Saturday for Iowa. He’s posted a 2.45 ERA over 44 innings.

Following Allgeyer on Sunday will be junior Brady Schanuel, who has recorded 37 strikeouts and a 4.06 ERA. Closing out the weekend rotation is junior Cole McDonald, who has an ERA of 3.52.

“We’re just now digging into the scouting report [for those pitchers],” head coach Greg Beals said. “But the game plan’s gonna be driven primarily around what our strengths are and us trying to match-up the strengths of our ball club.”

Once the starter has exited, Iowa loves to hand the ball to junior reliever Zach Daniels. After 20 innings of work, opposing hitters manage only a .176 batting average against him.

Then again, even the best pitching staffs in the country would face an uphill battle against Ohio State right now. Seven of the nine starting hitters for the Buckeyes hit above .260, with five above .300 and two above .380. As a team, their batting average ranks 13th in the nation.

Iowa’s batting order is nothing to scoff at either. Senior catcher Tyler Cropley and junior right fielder Robert Neustrom both bat above .340 with a combined eight home runs. Redshirt junior designated hitter and 2017 Big Ten tournament MVP Chris Whelan returned from injury in March and has been on a tear since, batting .383.

“We’re gonna stick to our game plan,” senior relief pitcher Kyle Michalik said. “We’re just gonna keep attacking hitters.”

Junior Connor Curlis takes the hill first for Ohio State, looking to improve upon a 4-1 record and 3.52 ERA. Fellow junior Ryan Feltner (3-1, 5.18 ERA) follows on Sunday looking for a fourth consecutive quality start after a rocky beginning to the season. Redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer (2-2, 5.85) rounds out the weekend rotation.

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