Hawkeyes Return Home To Face Redbirds

April 5, 2004

The Iowa baseball team will play two mid-week contests before resuming Big Ten play at home against Michigan. On Tuesday, the Hawkeyes will host Illinois State at Duane Banks Field beginning at 6 p.m. On Wednesday, Iowa will venture into the world of professional baseball when they play an exhibition game against the Iowa Cubs at Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. The contest is set to begin at 7:05 p.m.

Tickets for the game against Illinois State are available at the gate for $3 and tickets for the exhibition are available through the Iowa Cubs Ticket Office or by calling 1-800-IA-CUBS.

Every Monday night from 6-7 p.m. during the Iowa baseball season Iowa Head Coach Jack Dahm will join KXIC’s Brent Balbinot for a call-in show at Flanigan’s for “Hawk Talk with Jack Dahm.”

Fans can attend the show or call-in and talk Hawkeye baseball with Coach Dahm. Can’t attend? Listen to the broadcast on the radio at KXIC (AM 800).

The Hawkeyes dropped four games to Michigan State at Kobs Field in East Lansing, MI, including two games in extra innings.

In the series opener, Iowa starter Nathan Johnson and Spartan starter Bryan Gale were engulfed in a pitching dual that ended up sending the game into extra frames. Johnson scattered six hits over eight innings and Gale pitched nine innings of five-hit ball, but neither were involved in the decision.

The Hawkeyes had numerous scoring opportunities on the day, but they couldn’t get over the hump and come up with the clutch hit. The Spartans snuck away with the victory after sophomore Tim Gudex walked in the winning run with the bases loaded in the 11th inning.

Iowa played its second straight extra inning affair in Saturday’s 5-4 loss in game one of the doubleheader.

The Hawkeyes battled back from a 4-1 deficit and tallied three runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game. L.J. Mims hit a game-tying triple with two outs to knock in Jeff Gremley.

The Spartans came out on top with a clutch base hit up the middle by catcher Erik Morris to plate Travis Gulick and the game-winning run.

In the final two games, the Spartans connected on four homeruns to come away with a pair of victories, 6-3 in game two on Saturday and 12-1 in the series finale. Over the final two games, Michigan State’s starters held the Hawkeye bats in check, giving up nine hits and four runs in 16 innings.

Iowa Assistant Coach Ryan Brownlee will take on his father and mentor, Illinois State Head Coach Jim Brownlee, when the Hawkeyes host the Redbirds on Tuesday. The game will be the first time for the duo to be competing against each other in opposite dugouts.

Ryan coached under his father for two years at Evansville. Prior to joining the coaching ranks, Ryan was a four-year starter under his father for the Purple Aces.

Iowa’s Kris Welker tied an Iowa record for the third time this season in the series opener against the Spartans.

In his first two plate appearances, Welker was plunked by Michigan State starter Bryan Gale. Earlier this year on the Florida trip, the junior catcher was hit twice in games against Maine and Stetson.

Welker is leading the Big Ten with 12 HBP on the season through 22 games. He needs to be hit four more times this year to tie former Hawkeye Ian Mattice’s record of 16 HBP in a single season that was set in 2002.

The Hawkeyes have a winning record of 5-4 this season when they score the game’s first run. However, over the last nine contests Iowa has allowed its opposition to get on the board first. The last time the Hawkeyes took the lead to start the game was on March 19 in the 4-3 win over Dartmouth in Florida.

Junior Jesse Brownell raised his batting average by .26 points over the weekend against Michigan State. The left fielder hit .429 (6-14) with two doubles and extended his season-high hitting streak to six games.

On the year, Brownell is leading the team with a .312 batting average and has 10 RBIs, four doubles, two triples and two homeruns. In addition, he has swiped 6-of-8 bases, which is the second most on the Hawkeye squad.

Senior Nathan Johnson and sophomore Austin Seward are becoming solid anchors at the top of the Iowa rotation.

Johnson, the Hawkeye ace, has a 2-2 record on the season in a team-high seven starts. For the season, he is leading the team with 26 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings and has a 4.58 ERA.

Seward is leading the Iowa starting rotation and is tenth in the Big Ten with a 3.71 ERA in six starts this season. He has allowed 14 earned runs over 34 innings and has struck out 22 batters.

Illinois State holds a 5-3 advantage over Iowa in the all-time series. Last season, the Redbirds beat the Hawkeyes 11-4 in Normal, IL.

Illinois State enters the contest with a 9-12 record after splitting a four-game series with Northern Iowa this past weekend.

The Redbirds have a .281 team batting average on the year with six players above the .300 mark. Brian Watkins is leading the team with a .361 average in only 36 at-bats. Center fielder Nate Whitney has played in every game and has a .353 mark with 14 RBIs and four stolen bases. Left fielder Jeremy Pickrel has provided the team with some pop in the middle of the order as he has connected on seven long balls, four doubles and two triples to go along with 17 RBIs.

Illinois State is active on the base paths as they have swipped 31 bases in 41 attempts (.756).

Taking the mound for the Redbirds will be true freshman Dan Frega. The righthander has pitched in only 4 1/3 innings this year in two appearances (one start) and has struck out five batters while walking four. He has compiled a 6.23 ERA, allowing three earned runs.

Illinois State is led by second-year Head Coach Jim Brownlee.

“This past weekend was a disappointing start to league play. We had an opportunity to win a couple of games, but we didn’t execute offensively on our chances. We need to learn from these setbacks.

This team has a small margin for error, so we really need to execute in the key situations.

This week, we are looking forward to playing Illinois State and the experience of playing the Iowa Cubs. It will be positive for our program and it will be a good build-up to lead into this weekend’s series against Michigan.”

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