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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Cheer Local-Iowa Hawkeyes

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Another Big Ten baseball program you can follow.

Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

In the college baseball world, The Big Ten is a bit of an island unto itself. It isn’t of the caliber of the other four Big Five Power Conferences. Nonetheless, the circuit will often get four or five bids for the Field of 64. More often than not, one of the teams (at least) hosts a regional (an honor for 16 top teams). However, which one will host is a mystery every season. Minnesota hosted in 2018. Indiana and Purdue have hosted in the not-too-distant past. The Tyler Jay Illini hosted. Will the Iowa Hawkeyes host in the near future?

Last season’s Hawkeyes were a bit out on the fringes, both before the conference began, and after. However, their record was solid. Their 13-9 (33-20) finish put them a very respectable fifth in the Big Ten. They had five players drafted in June, which is a sign of a good program. When the field was announced, though, they were on the outside.

Of the Hawkeyes’ top four innings-eaters (a reasonable fair way of assessing college reliability) in 2018, three are now in pro ball. Senior Cole McDonald returns, and he fanned just under a hitter per inning in the 2018 campaign. Lefties Trenton Wallace and Jack Dreyer look to have a shot at the weekend rotation, as well.

The Orioles drafted and signed Robert Neustrom in the fifth round last time. He and Tyler Cropley (Nationals/eighth round) are the big bats that need to be replaced. Chris Whelan and Kyle Crowl had the best offensive numbers of the regular returning players. Catching may be a work-in-progress for Rick Heller’s Hawkeyes, as of his three listed catchers, two played last season, combining for seven total hits.

In reality, if you’re selecting the Hawkeyes to follow in 2019, it’s because you’re a Hawkeyes person. If they’re your squad in other sports, it’s perfectly reasonable to prepare for the Diamond Nine Sunshine State Classic, which starts on February 15 in Kissimmee, Florida. George Mason (Friday), Pittsburgh (Saturday), and Marshall (Sunday) provide the opposition in a tournament the Hawkeyes could win, or get pounded in. None are fierce opponents, but who knows. The Hawkeyes schedule for 2019 is here.

After the weekend in Florida, the Hawkeyes travel to Hawaii. As such, the games are late night on Friday and Sunday, with a double-dip scheduled on Saturday. Hawaii audio-streams their home games. Iowa’s first weekend home series is in mid-March against Cal State-Northridge. That game might move south as the game week approaches. I’m not seeing a Hawkeye commitment to streaming baseball games. A bit of that can depend on team success, sometimes.

Their 33 wins last season would appear to be a challenge goal for 2019. However, Crowl and Whelan walk almost as much as they strike out, and McDonald should be drafted. If tracking the Hawkeyes is your thing, getting off to a quick 5-2 start would solidify the start of the season. The Big 10 is getting more rugged, and a solid season hinges on health, stepping up, and buying into the system.

Someone requested a capsule on the Hawkeyes. Hopefully someone wants to commit to keeping Hawkeye nation apprised of the progress of the team, as they push for inclusion in the baseball Field of 64. I doubt they host a regional anytime soon, but a tournament trip is a reasonable chance, with the quality of the conference upgrading their strength of schedule. Iowa baseball will get more ink here if a volunteer updates us on them.