Since head coach Rick Heller took over for the University of Iowa baseball team in 2014, the Hawkeyes have appeared in two NCAA Regional Tournaments, in the years 2015 and 2017.
In 2015, the Hawkeyes finished the season with a 41-18 record and finished second in the Big Ten, which earned an at-large bid. Then in 2017, they finished with a record of 38-20, finishing tied for fourth place in the conference, earning a trip to a regional after winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
In 2022, the Hawkeyes finished with a record of 36-19, going 17-7 in Big Ten play, where they finished in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, tied with Rutgers and Illinois. The Hawkeyes’ season came to an end with a loss to Michigan in the semifinal game of the Big Ten tournament.
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) December 29, 2022
How Was 2022 For Iowa Baseball
Despite having such a strong season, the Hawkeyes were not chosen to appear in any of the 16 NCAA Regional Tournaments.
When it comes to the postseason, the Big Ten Conference does not get any respect. Being one of the power five conferences, it is unheard of to have only one team make the postseason when compared to the Big 12 which usually have about six teams make regionals, or the SEC, which had nine teams make a regional.
As far as baseball goes, the Big Ten is treated much more like a mid-major conference team than one from a power five conference.
The offseason following the 2022 season has been one of Iowa’s more active ones in recent years. For starters, the Hawkeyes lost four players to the MLB draft, including Adam Mazur, the teams’ ace and 2022 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, who was selected in the second round. Next for the Hawkeyes was first baseman Peyton Williams who was taken in the seventh round.
Pitcher Dylan Nedved was then selected in the ninth round. Finally, Duncan Davitt, also a pitcher, was drafted in the 18th round. Three of Iowa’s four players drafted were pitchers in 2022, which says a lot about a team who had the fourth-best ERA in the nation last year. Following the draft, left-handed pitcher Ben Beutel signed an undrafted free-agent contract.
Iowa took to the transfer portal to fill the holes that were lost in the players who were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft. Brennen Dorighi, a graduate transfer from Wofford will look to fill the shoes of the former first baseman, Peyton Williams in 2023.
As far as the weekend rotation goes, Ty Langenberg will likely take over as the Hawkeyes’ Friday night starter, moving up from the Sunday spot in 2022. Following Langenberg should be transferred from Long Beach State and 2022 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star, Zach Voelker.
The Departure of Lund
As if the loss of players from last season wasn’t enough of a task to be filled before the 2023 season, Iowa’s pitching coach, Robin Lund received a job with the Detroit Tigers late in the Hawkeyes’ fall season. While this was a devastating loss for the pitching staff in particular, this was nothing new for the Iowa baseball program.
Very similarly to Lund, Iowa’s former pitching coach, Desi Druschel was lost in 2019 to the New York Yankees. This speaks volumes to head coach Rick Heller’s incredible ability to bring in top-tier pitching coaches.
With that said, Heller quickly brought in Sean McGrath, who previously served as the Seattle Mariners’ Double-A pitching coach. The players already love McGrath and believe that he will be able to step right in, picking up right where Lund left off. This was a great hire for the program.
Welcome Home, @MitchBoe4! 🏠
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) December 21, 2022
Weather is the largest burden that the Big Ten Conference faces on the baseball field. The majority of the teams are unable to play home games for the first month of the season. Iowa is no exception to that, as their season starts with 12 straight road games, not playing at home in Iowa City until March 15th, where they will play a Wednesday midweek matchup against the University of St. Thomas.
The Hawkeyes 2023 season will open up in Port Charlotte, Florida in the Snowbird NCAA Baseball Classic, which features teams like Iowa, who are unable to play at home due to weather. Iowa will play Indiana State Friday, February 17th and Sunday, February 19th. In between matchups with Indiana State, they will play Quinnipiac on Saturday, February 18th.
Following the Snowbird NCAA Baseball Classic, the Hawkeyes will travel to Round Rock, Texas to play in the Karbach Round Rock Classic.
This time they will play three different teams, starting with Sam Houston State, LSU, and Kansas State. LSU is the key matchup in week two, as they will play Iowa on Saturday, February 25th.
The LSU Threat
They are the preseason number-one ranked team in the nation, after having one of the most historic offseasons in the transfer portal of all time. LSU is returning players such as the potential number one overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, Dylan Crews and Tre’ Morgan, who each played for the United States Collegiate National Team over the 2022 summer.
Even with the players returning for the LSU Tigers, they are also bringing in one of the best hitters in college baseball Tommy White, a transfer from NC State. White was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2022, after hitting .362 and setting the freshman home run record, with 27. If that wasn’t enough, the Tigers also brought in the two-way player from Air Force, Paul Skenes, who hit .367 with 24 home runs in two years at Air Force, while also showing a fastball that runs into the upper 90’s.
LSU also brought in UCLA transfer Thatcher Hurd, who was arguably the best freshman pitcher in the country in 2022, before a back injury ended his season. This matchup between Iowa and LSU will be a phenomenal test for the Hawkeyes and will show fans a lot about their pitching staff in 2023.
In week three, the Hawkeyes will appear in their final tournament of the preseason, before moving on to a more traditional three-game series. Iowa will travel to Mobile, Alabama, for the South Alabama invitational, Friday, March 3rd-Sunday, March 5th. Here, Iowa will start with Southern University on Friday, followed by South Alabama on Saturday, and finish up with Pepperdine on Sunday.
Huge shoutout to the Iowa Hawkeyes Baseball Team, Coaches and Head Coach @rheller21 for learning how to put the ball in play when life throws you curveballs! Have the Best Season Ever! #Hawkeyes #HawkeyesBaseball #Iowa #collegebaseball #change #managingchange #changeguidebook pic.twitter.com/23Ot11baaU
— Elizabeth Guarino (@BestEverYou) December 15, 2022
Final Road Series
As the final road series before the Hawkeyes are finally able to play at home, the Hawkeyes will travel to Lubbock, Texas, for a three-game series against preseason 17th ranked Texas Tech, Friday, March 10th-Saturday, March 12th. This will be yet another test for the Hawkeyes, going up against the Red Raiders, who finished second in the Big 12 in 2022.
Iowa’s biggest test of the conference season will come in their home series against Maryland, Friday, March 31st-Sunday, April 2nd. Maryland is the reigning Big Ten Conference Champion, after going 47-14 in 2022, including a conference record of 18-5.
Immediately following the Hawkeyes’ regular season, the team will travel to Omaha, Nebraska’s TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, for the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held May 23-29. Regardless of what the Hawkeyes do in the regular season, they must have a strong showing at the conference tournament in order to make it to an NCAA Regional Tournament.
It is unfortunate that the Big Ten is not treated like the other power five conferences when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, but it is the reality of the situation. The entire 2023 season for Iowa is all preparation for the Big Ten Tournament.
What Does It Take To Advance Past The Big Ten Tournament?
The Iowa Hawkeyes look to hit the ground running after posting a strong record of 36-19 in 2022. Despite such a season, it was not enough to advance past the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes are taking the field with a chip on their shoulder in 2023 and are in no way satisfied with the way their season ended a year ago.
From the players taking the field to the coaches in the dugout, the Iowa Hawkeyes have some new faces in 2023, some faces that are hungry to impact the team in a positive way. Iowa’s 12 road games to start the season will provide significant insight into who the Hawkeyes will be in 2023.
They will see a little bit of everything during this road trip, from some lesser opponents, middle-of-the-pack opponents, and ultimately some of the best that college baseball has to offer. With that said, no team should be treated differently than another.
Iowa’s pitching staff was one of the best in the nation in 2022, the big question is how the combination of a new rotation under the leadership of a new coach will translate once the season begins.
Target Acquired 🏹🎯
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) December 14, 2022
Despite the significant changes that were made during Iowa’s 2022 offseason, one thing is certain, and that is that head coach Rick Heller knows how to go out and find spectacular reinforcements.
It will be exciting to follow the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team in 2023, they will be tested early in the season, but it will be how they handle those tests that show us if the Hawkeyes will be back in an NCAA Regional Tournament in 2023.
The 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes are both well-equipped and excited for their upcoming baseball season.
Credits on Featured Image: Photo by Steshka Willems