April 11, 2007
It’s not everyday that a coaching staff gets lucky in the recruiting process, but for Iowa Head Coach Jack Dahm and his staff, that was the case last summer. While hitting coach Ryan Brownlee was scouting a potential replacement for centerfielder Nate Price, he saw Mike Schurz, a pitcher from Radford University. Although it turned out the centerfielder was not what the coach was looking for, he was very impressed by what he saw in Schurz.
While with Radford, Schurz was getting playing time, but he wasn’t pitching how he would have liked. Before going to Radford, he had always pitched overhand. Once he set foot on campus, the coaches wanted him to throw sidearm, which he wasn’t comfortable with. The adjustment hindered his progress and he was quickly moved from starter to middle reliever. He wanted to go back to his normal throwing style, but was told there would be a good chance he would be cut.
Heading into the summer, he told himself he was going to throw overhand no matter what since he was already looking to transfer.
Even though Brownlee was not looking for a pitcher, he knew the team could use some extra arms. After filming Schurz pitch, the coaching staff took a look at the tape. The rest of the staff was impressed and jumped at the opportunity to sign Schurz.
The move was by far the right fit for Schurz, who has been much happier since coming to Iowa City.
“It’s been great,” said Schurz. “The coaches are outstanding here. The fans are awesome. It’s definitely one of the best moves, in baseball, I’ve made.”
Not only has the change been mentally good, but mechanically as well.
“I’m a lot more comfortable and I’ve got about 4-5 [extra] miles per hour to my fastball throwing over the top,” said Schurz.
In the fall he came in and was expected to be a starter, just as he had started out during his time at Radford. During the first two weeks he was outstanding, but then hit a wall and realized that pitching in the Big Ten wasn’t going to be easy.
At the end of the fall, Dahm sat Schurz down and told him he wanted him to be the team’s closer. It was a spot they still needed fill after the loss of two-time all-Big Ten pitcher, Tim Gudex. Although he had wanted to be a starter, he had no problem making the move.
Dahm felt that it was the right spot for Schurz because of his mentality. While starters tend to be very calm, closers are generally more jumpy and excited.
“A lot times when you find a closer, they’re a little quirky or a little goofy in some way,” Dahm said. “He’s got that, but he’s also got that that competitive spirit to him.”
That mentality allows him to be loose and not shy away from tough situations.
Dahm learned right out of the gate that he made the right decision in moving Schurz to closer.
“I knew when we faced Arkansas-Little Rock, the way he attacked the strike zone, the second game of the year. I knew we had a chance to have a pretty good one there,” said Dahm.
Schurz really has going a lot of confidence in himself which resonates to his teammates. They’re comfortable playing behind him because they know he’s going to get the job done.
“There are not a lot of guys out there who know how to get that 27th out,” said Dahm. “Mike thinks he can get that out every time. We were fortunate to have that in Tim Gudex and we’re fortunate to have it in Mike Schurz.”
After starting out the season on a roll with a record of 3-0 and three saves while not allowing a run, Schurz was called into duty at Ohio State. The team was already on its way to a loss, but Dahm brought him in to hold Ohio State’s lead to a minimum. Unfortunately, Schurz wasn’t mentally ready and gave up four runs in one inning. It was a tough situation for him.
“Hopefully he understands that if he’s not locked in mentally, he’s very hittable,” said Dahm.
The inning showed him he still has a lot of work to do to get to where he wants to be.
“After that four-run inning, you can’t let it get to you. You’ve gotta forget about it and leave it in the past,” said Schurz.
All closers need a short memory, but as Dahm said, he needs to make sure that he is always ready mentally.
“The biggest thing is to stay hungry,” said Dahm. “He’s gotta continue to work hard everyday and not take anything for granted.”
Even with the one bad outing, Schurz has still exceeded expectations. He is currently second in the Big Ten with five saves, and hasn’t allowed a run since that inning at Ohio State.
Just as Gudex played a key role at the end of games for the Hawkeyes the past two seasons, Schurz will be looked upon to do the same.
By Josh Mitchell, UI Sports Information
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