Hawkeyes Set For Home Opener

March 22, 2011

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Iowa returns to Iowa City this weekend to face Western Illinois Friday and Saturday. The Hawkeyes will host the Leathernecks at Duane Banks Field at 5:35 p.m. Friday and at 1:05 p.m. Saturday. Iowa (7-10) will then travel to Western Illinois Sunday for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Admission to Friday and Saturday’s game is $3 for adults, and free for UI students and youths.

Iowa baseball fans can follow the Hawkeyes with live stats (gametracker) on hawkeyesports.com. Click on the GT link found on both the front page and the baseball schedule page. Whistlin’ Ray Gilmore is in his 34th season with the Hawkeye baseball program and will be posting the stats.

Hawkeye fans can catch most Hawkeye games on AM-800 KXIC. The Voice of the Hawkeyes, Brent Balbinot, will handle the play-by-play. The three-game Western Illinois series will be broadcast on the radio and online. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games against South Dakota State will also be broadcast on both. Iowa’s home games Friday and Saturday can both be seen on bigtennetwork.com. Mack Baker and Kyle Hughes will call the action.

The Hawkeyes will play at Duane Banks Field Friday, after 17 straight games away from Iowa City to start the season. Last season, Iowa went 15-6 at home. The Hawkeyes are 81-73 at home in the Jack Dahm era.

The Hawkeyes’ strength of schedule is ranked 17th nationally by boydsworld.com. Iowa has opened the 2011 campaign with 17 games away from Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are 2-3 as the visiting team and 5-7 at neutral sites. Iowa opened the season at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge with three games against West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. The Hawkeyes have also faced Kansas, Mississippi State, Georgia State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Notre Dame and Gonzaga. Six of Iowa’s 11 opponents faced thus far have RPI’s 70 or better.

The Big Ten Conference announced Monday that University of Iowa junior pitcher Nick Brown was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. Brown earned Pitcher of the Week accolades for the first time in his career after leading Iowa to an 11-2 win over Notre Dame last Friday. The junior starter tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits without issuing a walk. The right-hander also struck out three en route to his second win of the season. The native of Wheaton, Ill., ranks among the Big Ten’s best in opponents’ batting average, allowing the opposition to hit just .230 against him this season. Brown is Iowa’s first pitcher to earn the conference weekly honor since Brock Alberts on March 3, 2008.

The Hawkeyes went 3-5 on their annual spring trip. Iowa finished 1-3 in Lubbock, Texas. The Hawkeyes dropped a pair of two-run games at Texas Tech, before splitting two games with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Iowa then traveled to San Antonio, Texas, winning two against Notre Dame before falling twice to Gonzaga.

Five Hawkeyes, Tyson Blaser (.667), Zach McCool (.462), Bryan Niedbalski (.444), Mike McQuillan (.417) and Kurt Lee (.400) all hit at least .400 in the four games in San Antonio.

Mike McQuillan enjoyed a 10-game hitting streak earlier this year. His streak ended Friday night against Gonzaga. That is the longest for Iowa in 2011, followed by Trevor Willis at six games. Entering the weekend, Kurt Lee owns a four-game streak.

Seven Hawkeyes, Mike McQuillan (seven), Trevor Willis (six), Andrew Ewing (four), Tyson Blaser (four), Bryan Niedbalski (four), Zach McCool (three) and Chett Zeise (three) have recorded multiple multi-hit games this year. All seven have notched at least one game where they recorded three or more hits. Willis and Blaser have reached the four hit mark, with Willis accomplishing the feat twice.

The Hawkeyes beat Notre Dame last Thursday, 4-3, in ten innings in the first game of the Irish Classic. The win marked the first time a team defeated Notre Dame on St. Patrick’s Day in five years. The last team to top the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day was the Hawkeyes in 2006, also in San Antonio.

The Hawkeyes have enjoyed success in close games. Iowa is 4-2 in one-run decisions thus far. The Hawkeyes claimed two-of-three one-run decisions on their spring trip and four of their last five overall.

Iowa fell for just the second time this season Saturday (7-2 vs. Gonzaga) when outhitting its opponents. Iowa outhit Gonzaga, 12-11, in the loss. The Black and Gold are 6-2 when outhitting their opponents.

The Hawkeyes have enjoyed success closing out games. Iowa owns a 5-1 record when leading after six innings. The Hawkeyes own 4-0 records when leading after the seventh and eighth innings.

Iowa owns the third best fielding percentage (.971) in the Big Ten, trailing only Indiana (.976) and Michigan State (.972). The Hawkeyes have made the fourth-fewest errors in the conference (19), trailing only the Spartans (18), the Hoosiers (18) and Minnesota (17).

The Black and Gold are tied for first in the Big Ten in walks. Iowa and Michigan have both taken 76 free passes.

Iowa has laid down 27 sacrifice bunts this season; the most in the Big Ten and 11th-most nationally. Michigan State ranks second with 20. Zach McCool leads the conference with six, while Andrew Host is tied for second with five. McCool ranks 25th nationally in sacrifices per game, while Host is 27th.

Senior Trevor Willis has tallied four triples in 2011, equaling his total from a year ago. The number is tied for most in the Big Ten and ranks third nationally.

Tyson Blaser is enjoying success behind the dish in 2011. The senior has thrown out 10 base runners in 17 games. He gunned down 13 all of last year. Sophomore Keith Brand has thrown out two.

The Hawkeyes have enjoyed solid pitching to start the 2011 campaign. Iowa owns a team ERA of 4.80 and six Hawkeyes (Ben Bergman, Patrick Lala, Phil Keppler, Kevin Lee, Nick Brown and Jeff Pacha) have averages below 4.00. Lee and Brown have each notched two wins thus far.

Western Illinois, led by third-year head coach Dan Spencer, is 3-15. The Leathernecks are 3-14 as the visiting team this season and 0-1 at neutral sites. Like Iowa, Western Illinois has played a tough schedule. It ranks as the 43rd toughest nationally.

Iowa is 64-24-2 all-time against Western Illinois. The Hawkeyes went 4-0 against Western Illinois in 2010.

The two victories over Mississippi State marked the first time in the program’s history that the Hawkeyes collected two wins against an SEC opponent in the same year. The Bulldogs are 15-6 with an RPI of 34.

Senior Trevor Willis was named Big Ten Player of the Week March 7 after recording three multi-hit games in four contests with Georgia State and Mississippi State. Willis posted back-to-back four-hit contests against the Bulldogs, leading Iowa to the series sweep. The four hits marked a career high for Willis. He also went 2-for-4 in the weekend finale, a 3-2 walk-off victory against the Panthers. The native of Lockport, Ill., scored six runs in four games, touching home twice in each of Iowa’s last three games, and drove in a run. The center fielder slugged a triple and went 3-for-4 on the base paths, including two steals in Sunday’s game and a swipe of home on Saturday. For the week, Willis batted .647, with a .667 on base percentage, and slugged at a .765 clip for an OPS of 1.432. The weekly honor is the first for Willis.

Zach Kenyon notched his first victory of the year in the 5-3 win over Mississippi State March 4. In the bottom of the sixth, Kenyon accomplished a rare feat. The senior righty struck out four batters. The third hitter struck out swinging, but reached on a wild pitch. Kenyon then got the next batter to strike out swinging. He recorded a career-high eight strikeouts in four innings.

Redshirt senior Tyson Blaser, senior Zach McCool, junior Andrew Ewing, and sophomores Patrick Brennan, Patrick Harshman and Ricky Sandquist comprise Iowa’s 2011 Unity Council.

In the 7-6 victory against Mississippi State March 5, the Hawkeyes added another rare feat. Senior Trevor Willis led off the fourth with a single to center. With two outs and Willis on third base, senior Tyson Blaser drew a walk. The senior duo then executed the perfect double steal, with Willis stealing home. The last time an Iowa player stole home was March 23, 2007. Jason White accomplished the feat in a 6-5 against North Dakota State.

The Hawkeyes have been picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten by conference coaches and Perfect Game USA, an online baseball publication. Three Hawkeyes have been named to the `Players to Watch List’: SP Jarred Hippen, RP Kevin Lee and 3B Zach McCool.

The Hawkeyes finished the 2010 Big Ten season tied for third with Northwestern (13-11). The third place finish marked the highest for Iowa, since 2005. In 2005, Iowa finished 19-13 in Big Ten play.

Junior Kurtis Muller was selected in the Major League baseball 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Muller was chosen by the Cincinnati Reds in the 22nd round (667th pick). Senior Zach Robertson was picked by the Florida Marlins in the 30th round (917th pick), incoming recruit Patrick Lala was selected in the 29th round (891) by the Philadelphia Phillies, senior Patrick Schatz was picked by the Chicago White Sox in the 49th round (1,478th pick) and incoming recruit Taylor Zeutenhorst was selected in the 41st round by the Phillies (1,251st pick). Lala and Zeutenhorst did not sign professional contracts and are on Iowa’s 2011 roster. However, Muller did sign a contract and will forgo his senior year of eligibility. Under Jack Dahm, 22 Hawkeyes have been drafted. Sixteen players have been drafted in the past four years.

Hawkeye fans can purchase 2011 Iowa baseball season tickets now. Fans can reserve their own chair backs for the 2011 season by calling the UI Athletic Ticket Office at 1-800-IA-HAWKS. Reserved chair back season tickets are available for $25, while general admission season tickets are $15.

The Hawkeyes return 21 lettermen from a team that won 11 of its last 14 games in 2010 and finished third in the Big Ten regular season and second in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa returns seven starters and 10 pitchers. Iowa will look to replace starting outfielders Kurtis Muller (CF) and Ryan Durant (RF). The Hawkeyes boast one of the deepest pitching staffs in the Big Ten, returning a number of veterans. In addition to the 21 returnees, the Hawkeyes will welcome 10 talented newcomers. A number of the newcomers could see action this season including LHP Patrick Lala, SS Kasey Carling, UT Taylor Zeutenhorst, RHP Tim Fangman and OF Kyle Haen.

Iowa won four of its final five three-game series, including sweeping Purdue in the final three games of the regular season to finish third in the Big Ten, its highest finish since 2005. Iowa carried that momentum into the Big Ten Tournament a week later in Columbus, Ohio. The Hawkeyes bounced Purdue from the six-team tournament with two victories over the Boilermakers and rallied from a seven-run deficit to stun second-seeded Michigan in the semifinals. Iowa reached the championship game for the first time since 1983. The Hawkeyes ultimately fell to the well-rested and top-seeded Minnesota team in the title game.

The Hawkeyes were 11-1 with the lead after five innings in Big Ten games in 2010. In overall games, Iowa boasted a 24-3 record. With the lead in the eighth inning, Iowa was a perfect 13-0 in conference play and 28-0 overall. When Iowa’s offense generated six or more runs for its pitchers the Hawkeyes were 21-8. Closer Kevin Lee slammed the door on the opposition, collecting an Iowa single-season record 13 saves, a total that ranked seventh best in the country. He also was credited with two victories. The senior has one save this season. Only one closer returns from last year who had more saves than Lee (Portland’s Chris Dennis — 14).

Zach McCool tied yet another school record in 2010. McCool laced two consecutive triples in Iowa’s victory over Western Illinois on April 6. The last time that was done was in 1999 by Brian Burks. McCool tied another individual-game record earlier in 2010. He went 5-for-6 from the leadoff spot for Iowa in its series finale against Michigan State. McCool’s five hits ties a single-game school record, last achieved by former Hawkeye standout Justin Toole in 2008.

Trevor Willis boasted strong defense in 2010 in left field, gunning runners out; whether it be at second, third or home. Willis had eight assists to lead the Big Ten and rank in the top 50 in the country. After playing last season in left field, the senior will shift over to center field, replacing Muller, who left after his junior season for the major leagues. Redshirt sophomore Andrew Host will likely replace graduating senior Ryan Durant in right field. Host played in 42 games, starting 17, last season.

Every year the UI Athletics Department continues to upgrade Duane Banks Field. In 2010, the Hawkeyes added 500 chair back seats behind home plate. The chair backs allow Hawkeye fans to purchase season tickets. This past fall, Duane Banks Field underwent a facelift, with a complete resurfacing of the field. New sod, dirt and drainage system were installed. Additionally, new batting cages were put in place down the right field line. In 2009, the UI Recreation Building underwent a complete makeover. Improvements included: a new locker room, lounge, training room and weight room for the baseball program. Iowa boasted a 15-6 home record at Duane Banks Field in 2010.

Jarred Hippen, who was a second team all-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Tournament team honoree a year ago, returns for his junior season. Hippen has been Iowa’s ace since his freshman campaign. A year ago, Hippen started 15 games. He led the team in ERA (3.71) strikeouts (71) and complete games (4). All four complete games, which resulted in wins, came during conference play (Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State). Other Hawkeye starters returning include Nick Brown, Matt Dermody and Zach Kenyon. Brown is a two-year starter while Dermody started seven games a year ago as a freshman. Kenyon was a primarily a starter his first two years, but only started four contests in 2010. Kenyon mainly saw action in middle relief last season.

Jarred Hippen, who was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team last year, was named College Baseball Daily’s preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. He was also named to Perfect Game USA’s and Baseball America’s preseason all-conference teams. Hippen, a junior left-hander, started 15 games in 2010 en route to second team All-Big Ten honors. He finished 6-4 and led the team with a 3.71 ERA and 99.1 innings pitched.

Kevin Lee, a senior righty, was named to the watch list for the annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball. He is one of three Big Ten closers named to the list. The Oak Lawn, Ill., native notched a school-record 13 saves last year. He appeared in 21 games, winning two, while recording a 5.75 ERA. Lee tallied 14 strikeouts in 20.1 innings last year. Lee came out of the ninth with a win or save in every save opportunity he was given.

The Hawkeyes will appear on the Big Ten Network at least three times during the 2011 regular season. Iowa’s game at Illinois at 6 p.m. on April 9 will be televised. In addition, two home games will be shown. The Hawkeyes’ game against Indiana on April 15 (6 p.m.) will be televised, as well as their game versus Penn State on May 7 (2 p.m.). The Big Ten Network will also televise the Big Ten Tournament.

Up-to-date head shots of all Iowa players and coaches are available on the internet at pics.hawkeyebaseball.com. Contact the Iowa Sports Information office if you are in need of additional photos.

Head Coach Jack Dahm is assisted by coach Ryan Brownlee and coach Chris Maliszewski, along with volunteer coach Zach Dillon. Over the past 10 seasons, 25 players coached or recruited by Brownlee have been drafted; two more signed free agent contracts. In the past two years, Kurtis Muller, Patrick Schatz, Steve Turnbull, Kyle Heim, Mike Schurz and recruits Matt Dermody, Dan Sheppard, Patrick Lala and Taylor Zeutenhorst were drafted by major league teams. In six years of coaching summer collegiate leagues, he has seen 33 of his players sign pro contracts, including Khalil Green and Joe Thatcher of the Padres, Kevin Cash of the Yankees, Dan Meyer of the Marlins and Luke Scott of the Astros. Last season, the hitting coach preached a `pitch-by-pitch’ approach at the plate that helped propel the Hawkeyes to 11 wins in their final 14 contests; the team eventually finished 30-28. Iowa finished third in the conference and ultimately placed second at the Big Ten Tournament. The tournament berth was the eighth in school history. The Hawkeyes won three games at the tournament, which was the first time an Iowa team had won any game since 1990. The runner up finish in the conference tournament tied the school’s highest finish, which was accomplished once before (1983).

Maliszewski is in his third season as the Hawkeye pitching coach. In addition to his role as pitching coach, Maliszewski is also responsible for the team’s travel arrangements and assists with the youth summer camps. In 2010, Maliszewski and his pitching staff helped propel Iowa to a third place finish in the conference, as well as earning the school’s eighth Big Ten Tournament appearance. The Hawkeyes finished as the runner-up in the tournament after winning three games — the first tournament wins for Iowa since 1990. Maliszewski mentored his young pitching staff to improved numbers in his second campaign. Under his tutelage, the Hawkeyes posted improved numbers in wins, ERA, saves, walks, wild pitches and opposing batting average. Iowa’s talented arms helped the Hawkeyes to a late surge, winning 11 of their last 14 games. Individually, pitcher Jarred Hippen was named to the all-tournament team, as well as garnering second team all-league accolades. In addition to Hippen’s accomplishments, closer Kevin Lee broke the school single-season record with 13 saves – nearly double the saves Iowa had as a team in 2009.

Iowa will play two midweek games, both at home. The Hawkeyes will entertain South Dakota State Tuesday (6 p.m.) and Wednesday (4 p.m.). Iowa remains at home next weekend, opening its Big Ten schedule against Michigan State Friday-Sunday.