Hawkeyes Open Big Ten Play Friday Against Spartans

March 31, 2011

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Iowa opens Big Ten conference play Friday when it hosts Michigan State at Duane Banks Field. First pitch of game one of the three-game set is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. The Hawkeyes and Spartans will also play Saturday and Sunday at 1:05 p.m. each day. 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 Michigan State series will be broadcast online and Friday’s game will also be broadcast on the radio. Each game of the three-game series can both be seen on bigtennetwork.com.

Fans of the Hawkeyes can take advantage of a number of promotions during the Michigan State series. Friday is Facebook/Twitter appreciation night — fans can print out the advertisement on Facebook and present to the ticket window for one free admission. The baseball trading card strip #2 will also be given out to fans in attendance on Friday. Sunday is UI Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day. Faculty and staff can show their university ID at the ticket window for one free admission.

The Hawkeyes hosted South Dakota State in a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes lost in 14 innings, 7-4, to the Jackrabbits Tuesday. Ricky Sandquist had a solid outing for Iowa. The sophomore took a no decision, throwing six and a third innings, while striking out four. Wednesday, the Black and Gold lost to South Dakota State, 10-5. Iowa tallied 10 hits in the loss.

It has been over a decade since the Hawkeyes competed in a 14 inning game. On March 30, 1999, Iowa lost at Iowa State, 6-5.

The Hawkeyes will play at Duane Banks Field Friday-Sunday, after 17 of 19 games away from Iowa City to start the season. Last season, Iowa went 15-6 at home, including 8-4 in Big Ten contests. The Hawkeyes are 81-75 at home in the Jack Dahm era.

The Hawkeyes’ strength of schedule is ranked 57th nationally by boydsworld.com. The number ranks second highest in the Big Ten (Ohio State – 23). Iowa has opened the 2011 campaign with 17 of 19 games away from Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are 0-2 as the home team, 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 12 opponents faced thus far have RPI’s 70 or better.

Michigan State, led by third-year head coach Jake Boss Jr., is 15-6. The Spartans are 5-2 as the visiting team this season. Michigan State will also be opening its Big Ten slate Friday, despite playing three games against rival Michigan. The Spartans swept a three-game series from the Wolverines (March 25-27) for the first time since 1955 and for just the second time in program history. Michigan State leads the conference in both team batting average and team ERA.

Iowa is 57-71-1 all-time against Michigan State. The Spartans took two-of-three from Iowa in 2010. The Hawkeyes claimed game one, behind a complete game from Jarred Hippen. Hippen gave up three runs while scattering seven hits, earning his first of four complete games last year. In the series finale, Zach McCool went 5-for-6 with two RBIs, tying the school record for hits in a game. For the series, Mike McQuillan batted .500 (7-for-14) with two RBIs and a walk.

Senior Tyson Blaser has been named to the 2011 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award Watch List. The annual award is to honor those athletes that serve as a team’s starting catcher in at least 75% of the games. The watch list will be narrowed down to ten semifinalists May 19. The finalists will be announced June 6. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. The winner will be announced at the 14th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 30, 2011, in Wichita, Kan.

The Hawkeyes have enjoyed success in close games. Iowa is 5-2 in one-run decisions thus far. The Hawkeyes have claimed four of their last five overall.

Eight Hawkeyes, Mike McQuillan (nine), Trevor Willis (seven), Andrew Ewing (five), Tyson Blaser (five), Bryan Niedbalski (four), Chett Zeise (four), Zach McCool (three) and Kurt Lee (three) have recorded multiple multi-hit games this year. 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.

Mike McQuillan enjoyed a 10-game hitting streak earlier this year. His streak ended March 18 against Gonzaga. That is the longest for Iowa in 2011, followed by Kurt Lee at seven games and Trevor Willis at six. Entering the weekend, McQuillan owns an active streak of five games and Tyson Blaser and Phil Keppler each own three-game streaks.

The Hawkeyes have enjoyed success this season when notching more hits than their opponents. The Black and Gold are 6-2 when outhitting their opponents.

Iowa owns a 7-1 record when leading after six innings.

Due to Tuesday’s game going 14 innings, Iowa was shorthanded in relief. Senior Jeff Pacha and junior Phil Keppler stepped up and gave career best performances on the hill. Pacha threw a career-high four innings Tuesday, striking out four Jackrabbits. Keppler pitched a career-high three and two-thirds Wednesday, while striking out four.

Iowa has laid down 39 sacrifice bunts this season; the most in the Big Ten and eighth-most nationally. Zach McCool leads the conference with nine. McCool ranks 10th nationally in sacrifices per game.

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 eighth nationally.

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

Hawkeye pitcher Nick Brown was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week March 21. The junior 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 March 18. The 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. 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.

The Hawkeyes beat Notre Dame March 17, 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.

Iowa won at Mississippi State March 4 (5-3) and March 5 (7-6). 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 19-6.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Big Ten Network television coverage of 2011 Big Ten baseball and softball begins on Sunday with a doubleheader of action and the premiere of Big Ten Diamond Report, the network’s new weekly studio show. Big Ten Diamond Report will review the sports’ top headlines, preview upcoming matchups and look at national storylines affecting the Big Ten. Mike Hall and Rick Pizzo host the show along with former Hawkeye pitcher and major leaguer Cal Eldred and Tammy Williams, Northwestern’s former two-time Big Ten Softball Player of the Year. The show will air each Sunday during the spring through the end of the Big Ten baseball and softball seasons with expert analysis, player and coach interviews, features and exclusive access inside the diamond.

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 one midweek game next week, hosting Coe College on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will travel to Champaign, Ill. next weekend to compete against Illinois in a three-game series.