IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa baseball team is ranked 44th in College Sports Madness' Top 44 college baseball poll, it was released Wednesday. The college sports website also tabs the Hawkeyes as the fourth-best team in the Big Ten Conference.
Iowa returns seven starters from a team that won 39 games and claimed the first Big Ten Tournament title in program history in 2017. The Hawkeyes advanced to NCAA Regional play for the second time in three seasons, going 1-2 at the Houston Regional.
Among Iowa's returnees are All-Big Ten selections Robert Neustrom and Tyler Cropley and Freshman All-Americans Ben Norman and Kyle Shimp.
Neustrom, a junior outfielder, hit .310 with nine home runs, 16 doubles, and 55 RBIs, while Cropley, a senior catcher, hit .268 with nine home runs, eight doubles, and 36 RBIs. Norman, a sophomore outfielder, finished his first season with a .296 average with 12 doubles and 20 steals, while Shimp, a left-handed reliever, went 5-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 18 appearances.
For the first time in head coach Rick Heller's tenure, Iowa will not have any holdovers in its starting rotation, but the Hawkeyes have pieces to fill the holes.
Junior southpaw Nick Allgeyer is back after missing 2017 following Tommy John surgery and junior college transfer Brady Schanuel (10-1, 2.13 ERA, 130 K) joins the program after earning first-team All-America honors at Parkland College. Junior Cole McDonald (2-4, 6.96 ERA) had a great summer and fall, which included tossing a no-hitter during Iowa's silver medal run at the World University Games.
The Hawkeyes also welcome back junior reliever Zach Daniels, who went 7-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 appearances as a sophomore.
Iowa opens the 2018 season Feb. 16, facing Toledo in the opening game of the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series in Kissimmee, Florida.