Schurz resumes quest for baseball's 27th out

Feb. 16, 2009

Iowa Baseball Media Day photo gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are two dates that factor significantly in the baseball life of University of Iowa pitcher Mike Schurz.

The first is May 15, 2007, when he suffered an elbow injury while throwing in the Corridor Classic against Northern Iowa. The second is Friday, Feb. 20, when the Hawkeyes open the 2009 season against Illinois at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in Clearwater, Fla. — with Schurz back in uniform.

Following the injury, Schurz, a right-handed closer from Norfolk, Va., needed Tommy John surgery. The surgery and rehabilitation were successful.

“Oh yeah, I’m ready to go,” said Schurz, who compiled nine saves in 2007. “I’m a lot better than I was. I gained mileage on my fastball and my arm feels a lot stronger. It feels like I have a brand new arm.”

Schurz pitched two seasons at Radford University before serving as Iowa’s closer in 2007. He threw 29 innings in 24 appearances, winning 6 of 7 decisions with 35 strikeouts and a 3.72 earned run average.

“First of all, this is the best my arm has ever felt,” Schurz said. “Coming back, it’s going to be a lot easier for me because rehab has made my arm so much stronger.”

The return of Schurz should make life easier for first-year Hawkeye pitching coach Chris Maliszewski.

“Mike has come a long way since the fall,” Maliszewski said. “He wasn’t quite confident or sure of himself, but now his health and arm strength are outstanding. He has put himself in position to go out there and get that 27th out, which isn’t easy in college baseball.”

In June, 2007, Schurz underwent Tommy John surgery (known by doctors as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction), which is a surgical procedure in which a ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. Schurz said rehabilitation was painful at first, but the effort paid off with his fastball now topping out at 92 miles per hour.

“People think that if you get the surgery, you’re going to come back better,” Schurz said. “But it’s all the rehab and everything that goes along with it.”

Schurz factored into the decision in 18 of 24 games in 2007 when the Hawkeyes finished 31-23. Without Schurz last season, Iowa was 22-33 overall, 10-22 in the Big Ten Conference. Like most in the UI dugout, Schurz has lofty expectations for his senior season.

“We want to win the Big Ten championship,” he said. “We want to get to the tournament first and then move on from there. That has always been our expectation. We will definitely be good enough.”

The UI baseball team’s sixth-annual Lead-Off Dinner is set for Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. This year’s event is headlined by major league umpire Tim McClelland. A special VIP reception begins at 5 p.m., with the dinner and program beginning at 6:30.