Feb. 16, 2009
HAWKEYES THIS WEEKEND: Two of the nation’s most prominent collegiate athletic conferences have come to an agreement to participate in a unique and ground-breaking season-opening baseball tournament in Florida. The inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Baseball Challenge, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, will feature 27 games February 20-22, 2009, at various spring training venues in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.
The tournament is scheduled for the same week that major league pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which will add to the buzz surrounding the event.
Iowa will take on Illinois in a nonconference game, then St. Johns and Georgetown for the first time in school history.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
1. To start last season the current leader in career hit-by-pitches, Kevin Hoef, was hit by six pitches in the first 10 games.
2. Mike Schurz, back from Tommy John surgery, looks to pickup things where he left off in 2007 and put Iowa back in Big Ten Tournament contention.
3. Iowa’s bullpen picked up some much needed depth since 2008 and now features 10 arms who throw 90 mph or higher.
FROM THE COACHES BOX:“We are going to use this tournament to really see where we’re at as a club,” Coach Dahm said. “This will be our first time outside in a while, which is tough. Our plan is to give everyone a chance and evaluate from there.”
SCOUTING ILLINOIS: Iowa will take on Big Ten rival Illinois Friday. The two teams will not face eachother during league play in 2009. The Orange and Blue are coming off of a fourth-place Big Ten finish and a 31-25 record in 2008. Illinois returns six starters — all of which hit .299 or better last season. Senior shortstop Ben Wikoff returns for his junior season after posting a .369 average, 61 RBI and 46 runs scored. The Illini pitching staff returns several quality pitchers, including junior right-hander Kevin Manson, who finished the season 8-2 record with 41 strikeouts in 74.2 innings. Illinois leads the all-time series between the two schools, 118-78-2.
SCOUTING ST. JOHN’S: On Saturday, the Hawkeyes will take on St. John’s in the first-ever match up in school history. The Red Storm finished the 2008 season with a 42-16 record, setting a school record in wins. They ended the regular season in first place in the Big East but dropped two in the conference tournament — the Red Storm was a NCAA tournament qualifier. St. John’s return 11 of its 14 letter winners from last season, including six starters. Returners include, sophomore utility Paul Karmas who led the team as a freshman in three statistical categories including hits (68), doubles (17) and RBI (45). Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer is going for his fifth Big East Coach of the Year honor in six seasons. This is the first meeting between the two schools.
SCOUTING GEORGETOWN: Iowa’s final game in the Challenge will be against Georgetown Sunday. The Hoyas finished 2008 with a 21-34 record and a 12th-place finish in the Big East. After losing four of their eight position starters — and a majority of their offense, the Hoyas will have an inexperienced defense. However, Georgetown returns 10 pitchers, including senior left-hander Mike Gaggioli, who finished with a 2.86 ERA and right-handed junior Jimmy Saris who recorded 78 strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA his sophomore campaign. This will be the first meeting between the two schools.
BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge: Tickets for the inaugural BIG EAST-Big Ten Baseball Challenge, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, are available online at BIGEASTBigTenChallenge.com. Those interested in purchasing tickets via phone can call 410-472-3500.
An all-tournament pass, which provides access to all 27 games of the Challenge, can be purchased for $10. Individual venue passes are available for $5. An individual venue pass will admit one spectator to the any game on a given day at Progress Energy Park, the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex, Jack Russell Stadium, Bright House Field or Dunedin Stadium.
SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Iowa will compete against some tough teams in 2009. The Hawkeyes’ schedule has four NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including: Michigan, Louisville, Nebraska and St. John’s.
2009 BRINGS CHANGES: Beginning with the 2009 season, Big Ten baseball series shall consist of three nine-inning games. If weather or travel problems prevent play on the originally scheduled days, the teams may mutually agree to play on different days. All games must be completed to nine innings unless the final game of the series is stopped because of rain or darkness. In that case, the last game will count if it has become regulation (four and one-half or five innings). If a game is stopped before completion, it will become a suspended game and completed the following day. The suspended game must be played to its nine-inning conclusion before a new game can begin. If Game 1 is not played on the first day, two nine-inning games shall be played on the second day. If Game 2 has not started on the second day, two nine-inning games shall be played on the third and final day.
ON THE TUBE: The Hawkeyes will be on the Big Ten Network five times in 2009. The five scheduled dates tie for the most of any Big Ten school along with Michigan and Ohio State. Four of the five contests will be broadcasted from Duane Banks Field. Also, this year will mark the first year that that BTN will cover all Big Ten Tournament games.
April 11 vs Indiana
April 12 vs Indiana
April 17 at Northwestern
April 25 vs Michigan State
April 26 vs Michigan State
Player Rnd/Pick Organization
Caleb Curry 14th/417th San Francisco
Kevin Hoef 48th/1450th Boston="https://hawkeyesports.com/http:%3E%3C/ahref="http:>
SCHEDULE STRENGTH: owa will compete against some tough teams in 2009. The Hawkeyes’ schedule has four NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including: Michigan, Louisville, Nebraska and St. John’s. The Hawkeyes will face three of the four on the road — Louisville is rated 11th in the pre-season by NCBW. Michigan will come to town for the Big Ten opener in March, ranked 30th preseason by NCBW.
TOOLE TIME: Justin Toole was named Pre-season Third Team All-American by Ping! Toole was also named to the 2009 Brooks Wallace Watch List due to his tremendous junior campaign. In 2008, Toole was named to the all-region team, received his second third team all-Big Ten laurel as well as his second academic all-Big Ten honor. Toole also tied Iowa single-game singles record with five vs. UNI (Apr. 30, 2008) was part of the Music City Classic All-Tournament Team and established school record 25-game hitting streak.
BLASER BACK TO 100%: After an injury plauged season — junior Tyson Blaser is back from rehab and ready to go. Blaser underwent surgery to repair a torn left meniscus and a thumb surgery to remove bone spurs. After a summer off the field that was full of rest and rehabilitation Blaser says he feels better than ever.
SUPER SOPHOMORE: After Kurtis Muller’s tremendous freshman season ended with a Ping! freshman all-America bid it is fair to say watch out to this potential super sophomore. Muller set a true-freshman record with 47 RBI, breaking John Knapp’s school record of 43 RBI by a true freshman, which was established in 1984. He will be taking over standout Caleb Curry’s spot in the lineup — hitting third and will also roam center field.
FRESHMEN GIVE DEPTH: Iowa’s freshman class has was ranked the 49th-best class according to Perfect Game Cross Checker last season. (The highest of any Big Ten team.) Five true freshman, Patrick Brennan, Nick Brown, Sean Flanagan, Jarred Hippen and Phil Schreiber, will give the pitching staff needed depth and make an early impact. The other five freshman, Dallas Burke, Andrew Ewing, Andrew Host, Mike McQuillan and Chett Zeise will add a healthy internal competition and make the Black and Gold’s experienced defense stronger.
SCHURZ RETURNS: Hawkeye hurler, Mike Schurz, returns to the mound this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007. Schurz will fill the Hawkeye’s closer role after finishing his junior season with a 6-1 record, nine saves and 35 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched.
SOUTHPAW SURPLUS: The Hawkeyes have a surplus when it comes to lefties in the bullpen this season. With senior Matt Douglas, juniors Kyle Heim and Zach Robertson, sophomore Jeff Pacha and freshman Jarred Hippen, Nic Jensen and Patrick Brennan.
LEADERSHIP IN THE INFIELD: The Black and Gold will be fielding an experienced team in 2009, especially in the infield. Seniors Kevin Hoef, Justin Toole, T.J. Cataldo, Wes Freie and junior Tyson Blaser will all start.
2009 CAPTAINS:This season the Hawkeyes voted on captains, marking the first time at Iowa under coach Dahm. Senior Justin Toole and juniors Michael Jacobs and Tyson Blaser were given the honor of captain this past fall.
WILLIS WILL MAKE AN IMPACT: Sophomore Trevor Willis will see time in right field after appearing in 21 games, with 10 starts last season. Despite being recruited as an infielder, Willis make the transition to the outfield. The move is similar to what Caleb Curry did.
DAHM ON THE VERGE OF #3:Head Coach Jack Dahm is five wins away from tying Dick Schultz for the third-most victorious coach in Iowa history. Dahm is currently at 124 wins at Iowa. Last season, Dahm captured his 400th career victory on April 23 against UNI. Dahm recorded 283 victories at Creighton and has won 122 at Iowa. Dahm started in 1994 with his alma mater, Creighton University, and moved on to coach the Hawkeyes in 2003.
FREIE RETURNS TO THE MOUND: Senior Wes Freie will return to the mound after a two-year hiatus. The right-hander began practicing from the hill last spring and will make an impact this season as a starter. As a freshman, Freie made four appearances in relief with two starts.
SAME FACE, NEW PLACE: Chris Maliszewski is the Hawkeyes’ new pitching coach. Maliszewski replaces Nick Zumsande, who was Iowa’s pitching coach the previous five seasons. Maliszewski returns to his alma mater after serving two seasons as the outfield and catching instructor and recruiting coordinator at Valparaiso University. He was a four-year letter winner with the Hawkeyes, posting a 7-10 career record with three saves. As a sophomore, he earned the victory over Illinois, sending Iowa to the conference tournament for the first time since 1991.
DUANE BANKS FIELD: Every year the UI Department of Athletics make improvements to Banks Field. The baseball program is very excited about the installation of 500 stadium chair back seats behind home plate. The major installation should be complete this year.
HAWKEYES SIGN THREE STANDOUTS: Matt Dermody, Ricky Sandquist, and Dan Sheppard have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University of Iowa.
Dermody, a Norwalk, IA, native was recruited as a left-handed pitcher. He is the third-ranked pitcher in Iowa by Perfect Game Crosschecker.
Sandquist is from Fort Dodge, IA and will be used as a right-handed pitcher. He is the fourth-best pitcher in state of Iowa by Perfect Game Crosschecker.
Sheppard a Downers Grove, IL, native is an athletic catcher who can also play outfield. He is the top-ranked catcher in the state of Illinois by Perfect Game Cross Checker and Prep Baseball Report.
2009 UNITY COUNCIL: The Unity Council is a group elected by their teammates to communicate internally with the coaches on behalf of their teammates. This years council includes: senior Kevin Hoef, senior Justin Toole, junior Tyson Blaser, junior Michael Jacobs, sophomore Kurtis Muller and freshman Patrick Brennan.
LAST SEASON: The Iowa baseball team finished its season 22-33 overall and 10-22 in conference play. Iowa’s Big Ten triumphs included a series win over Indiana, taking three from the Hoosiers in Bloomington. Iowa finished as the fourth-best hitting team in the conference with a .316 average, fifth in fielding with a .960 and ninth in pitching with a 6.63 ERA. Nationally, the team was third in stolen bases, 19th in hit by pitches, 29th in triples, 39th in sacrifice flies and 44th in batting average. One of the biggest triumphs of 2008 was a victory against No. 5 Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ home field, 12-9. Another season highlight was mid-week games. Iowa went 7-4 during these non-conference games. As a team, the Black and Gold broke a couple school records. Iowa stole 138 bases, which are the most in a single-season by a Hawkeye team, the previous record of 127 was set in 1981. The team also set a record with a team total of 86 hit-by-pitches, breaking the previous record of 83, which was set last season.