Feb. 10, 2010
In his seventh season with the Hawkeyes, Iowa Baseball Coach Dahm believes he will see improvement from a year ago. Despite having only three seniors on the 2010 roster, many of the Hawkeye underclassmen saw significant game action last season due to injuries and have the talent to take the next step and lead the Black and Gold.
Last season, the Hawkeye starting rotation was led by a trio of freshmen: Nick Brown, Jarred Hippen and Phil Schreiber. The trio comprised Iowa’s Big Ten weekend rotation and gained valuable experience in their rookie campaign. In addition to the three freshmen, transfer Zach Robertson showed flashes as the season progressed and really had an outstanding summer throwing the ball.
Brown, a strong right-hander, will likely begin the season in the starting rotation as the Hawkeyes’ Friday starter. Brown made 11 appearances, nine of which were starts and finished with a 6.35 ERA.
Jarred Hippen finished 2009 with a 4.87 ERA in a team-best 68.1 innings.
Hippen is a southpaw and is coming off a very successful rookie campaign where he posted a team-best 3-4 record in nine starts and 16 appearances. He finished with a 4.87 ERA in a team-best 68.1 innings.
Schreiber, a righty, will be also be returning to the starting rotation after making nine starts on the mound a year ago and leading the starting unit with a 4.57 ERA.
“The sophomore trio really gained experience last season,” Dahm said. “They got thrown into the fire, but continued to make huge strides throughout the year and over the summer. Last summer, they combined for an 18-6 record. We are excited about all three of them and the experience they got from last year. They took some lumps, but gained some very valuable experience.”
Also vying for a starting position will be Robertson. The senior finished 2009 with 10 appearances and five starts. He had a very successful summer in the Northwoods League, winning the championship for the Rochester Honkers and becoming the league’s strikeout leader with over 245 K’s throughout his career.
“Zach had a little bit of a transition year a year ago, coming from a junior college to Division-I baseball,” Dahm said. “He went out this summer and dominated the Northwoods League. Zach has gained a lot of confidence since last season and he now understands what it takes to compete at this level.”
“This is probably the most depth we have had at starting pitching to start a season,” Dahm said. “I think those top four guys have separated themselves a little bit, but then we also feel confident in Dermody, Sandquist, Kenyon and even Michael Jacobs or Patrick Schatz. Our starting depth is strong — with that, is a strong bullpen, as well. We have guys, like Jacobs and Schatz who have thrown a lot for us, add in the young guys and it is going to be a very solid pitching staff. That being said, we need them to throw what they are capable of and compete against that tough schedule.”
Coach Dahm and Pitching Coach Chris Maliszewski have confidence in their stable of arms in the bullpen this season. Dahm has a number a experienced veterans he can hand the ball to when needed in 2010.
Junior Kevin Lee will be given the opportunity to be the Hawkeyes’ closer this season, taking the place of Mike Schurz. Lee led the team in ERA last season (3.38) in 15 appearances as a situational pitcher; he struck out 11 in 13.1 innings. Besides a strong year in 2009, Lee also excelled in the Prospect League last summer, with 57 strikeouts in 38 innings of work, helping the Quincy Gems win the Prospect League title and earning an all-star appearance.
“Kevin really had a great summer at Quincy,” Dahm said. “He is one of the most competitive guys we have. I have been very pleased with how Kevin has improved his secondary pitches.”
Two pitchers with experience that will be in the relief role this season are Jacobs and Schatz. The upperclassmen duo can eat up innings, and their ability to go two or three frames will be valuable to the Hawkeyes.
“Michael was in that role as a freshman, coming out of the bullpen,” Dahm said. “We can bring him in to get one lefty out or to throw two or three innings for us. He really has had some of the biggest wins in our program throughout the years. Having an experienced lefty out of the pen will give us some good options.”
Other pitchers to see action in the bullpen are right-handers Matt Gates, Steve Hague, Kenyon and Sandquist. Gates is a sidewinder that will give opposing batters a different look the Hawkeyes have not had in recent seasons.
Mike McQuillan’s .363 batting average ranked second on the team in 2009.
While it will not be easy to replace veterans Kevin Hoef or Justin Toole in the infield, the Black and Gold will still have an experienced and talented core with Mike McQuillan, Chett Zeise and junior transfer Kurt Lee.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Dahm. “Losing Kevin and Justin, who were basically everyday players the past three to four years, it’s tough to replace their experience and leadership. One of the positives, from all of the injuries we had last season, was that a lot of young infielders gained valuable experience.”
Zeise, a sophomore, will be moving to third base for the Black and Gold after playing a majority of time at second base and shortstop last year. As a freshman, Zeise appeared in 45 games with 34 starts. He also had the most at bats of any freshman on the team (118).
Lee will play shortstop for Iowa this season. At Shasta College, Lee batted lead off and led Shasta with a .379 batting average, 41 runs scored, 24 walks and 17 steals.
“I am excited to watch Kurt play this spring,” Dahm said. “He plays with a lot of energy and as he gets comfortable I believe he will be a very good offensive and defensive player for us.”
Starting at second will be McQuillan, a sophomore. McQuillan’s .363 batting average ranked second on the team in 2009. The native of Evergreen Park, IL, stepped up his play during Big Ten action last year, leading the team with a .431 batting average. He finished with a .513 slugging percentage and a freshman team-best 20 RBI.
“Mike is developing into a very good defensive player,” Dahm said. “He is known as a good offensive player, but he wants to be a well-rounded player and he has made some nice progress.”
Also in the mix will be utility player Zach McCool, who had a very good fall. McCool will also battle for the right-handed designated hitter (DH) position and will be a valuable bat off the bench.
“Zach is developing into a very well-rounded player for us,” Dahm said. “He had a very good fall for us offensively and defensively and should be in our lineup on a regular basis at various positions.”
Flanagan will take over at first base, replacing departing seniors T.J. Cataldo and Wes Freie. Flanagan was our starting first baseman at the end of last season. He finished up, offensively in 2009, with a .301 batting average and six home runs.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Dahm said. “Sean has made some nice progress over there. It made a big difference to our team last year when we put him over at first base due to his athleticism. He could really play any infield position.”
Tyson Blaser, Mike Corbeil, Andrew Ewing and Phil Keppler could also see time at first. Also available at other positions in the infield is Ewing, Corbeil and Cory Glieden. Glieden will give the team infield depth, coming off injury. Corbeil is a talented left-handed hitter that can play first, third and DH.
The Hawkeyes enter the 20010 season with numbers and experience behind the plate.
After coming off a season-ending hand injury suffered in 2009 and using a medical redshirt, Blaser starts the season as Iowa’s No. 1 catcher.
Tyson Blaser is back in action after taking a medical redshirt last spring.
“It is great to have Tyson back,” Dahm said. “He definitely had his best fall this year and this is the first time he has been healthy since his freshman campaign. Tyson is someone we have been excited about ever since he got here and we would like to see him be healthy. Tyson has taken an active role in leadership and the development of our other catchers this year, as well.”
Pushing Blaser for playing time will be freshman Dan Sheppard. Sheppard was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round (920th pick) earlier this summer and elected to come to the University of Iowa.
“Dan is probably the most talented catcher I have had the opportunity to coach,” Dahm said. “He has a very bright future and Tyson and Dallas know that.”
Burke will also compete from playing time at the catcher position. Burke earned all-freshman accolades in 2009. The third-string catcher was called into duty after two untimely injuries and truly excelled offensively for the Hawkeyes. Burke finished with a .367 average in the conference and was named to the all-Big Ten freshman squad.
Freshman Keith Brand is also vying for playing time.
The Hawkeyes return two-thirds of their starting outfield. Iowa returns senior Ryan Durant and junior Kurtis Muller, who are athletic outfielders and are offensive threats. Muller will be stationed in center, while Durant will be patroling right field.
“It is going to be interesting, we have some really good athletes out there,” Dahm said. “We have an opportunity to have a very good defensive outfield.”
Durant earned first team all-conference laurels last season as Iowa’s right-fielder after hitting a team-high .370, which ranked sixth in the league. He also laced a team-best 67 hits and amassed 12 doubles, 29 RBI and eight stolen bases.
“Since Ryan got adjusted to playing Division-I, he has been really consistent,” Dahm said. “He made the all-star team in the Northwoods League this summer. He knows how to hit, he has a very good feel for hitting, a very mature plan at the plate and doesn’t try to do too much. For him to be a first team selection on a team that struggled really says how he played last year.”
In center, the Hawkeyes will look to Muller, who Coach Dahm says is one of the “most underrated outfielder in the Big Ten”. Muller had an outstanding summer, named MVP of the Northwoods League All-Star Game.
“Maybe the biggest surprise at the end of last year was to see where Kurtis wound up,” Dahm said. “He may have been healthy for a hand full of games last season. He tore his hamstring at the first tournament of the year and we really rushed him back. Kurtis really sets the tone at the top of the lineup, he is a great defensive outfielder and a great competitor when he’s hitting. He just wasn’t healthy, but he still hit .296 and stole 19 bases with not only a bad hamstring, but with a broken finger for part of the season. He’s worked really hard and had a great, healthy summer.”
Four Hawkeyes will likely see the most time as designated player in 2010.
Coach Dahm will ook to lefties Burke, Keppler, Corbeil, while right-handed McCool will look to provide the Hawkeye offense some extra punch.
All four are productive bats that will help drive in runs for the Black and Gold.