Late Season Surge Comes Up Short

May 27, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team had a late season surge to put itself in a position to make the Big Ten Tournament, but ultimately, the Hawkeyes came up a few games short, as they were left on the outside looking in.

“I felt like we were a talented enough team to make the tournament,” said UI head coach Jack Dahm. “We didn’t come up with enough clutch hits throughout the year.”

One of the things Dahm pointed out to the players is that the four teams that failed to qualify for the tournament a year ago, made it in 2011. Two of those teams — Michigan State and Illinois — shared the regular season title.

“Both Michigan State and Illinois were sitting at home at this time last season,” said Dahm. “It motivated them to make the tournament, work a little harder and made them tougher mentally in order to win. We need to get to work, prepare for next year and get this bitter taste out of our mouth.”

Iowa will have a solid nucleus of returning players next year, but won’t know its 2012 roster until after the Major League Baseball Draft in June to see if any underclassmen or recruits decide to jump to the professional ranks. One area Dahm wants to see the team improve on next season is its discipline on the field.

“We need to become a tougher team and pay attention to detail,” said Dahm. “That toughness will come through discipline and accountability towards what we are asking them to do. We are looking forward to cleaning some things up and ultimately becoming a better offensive team next year.”

Dahm admitted the six one-run Big Ten losses hurt the team mentally.

“If we win three or four of those we are in a position to be playing for the championship the last weekend,” said Dahm. “It was disheartening to our guys when we lose a game where we were one pitch away from a perfect game (Minnesota).

“We were right in the middle of the league in batting, but the area that really hurt us was runners left on base. We didn’t get the timely hit. We were close, but the bottom line is that we didn’t get it done.”

When reflecting on the season, Dahm pointed to strong performances in a hostile environment at Mississippi State, and how the team battled down the stretch with solid pitching.

“The pitching and progress made by Jarred Hippen and Matt Dermody were big highlights,” Dahm said. “Also, Tim Fangman and Zach Kenyon provided us a boost out of the bullpen. All of them kept us in the game and gave us opportunities to win… we just didn’t get it done. We came up short, dug ourselves too big of a hole and it cost us. We need to be a more consistent ball club throughout the season.”

Dahm said the team’s main strength from this past year was its pitching, and he had high praise for the staff.

“This was the best pitching we’ve had since I’ve been here, maybe even the best staff I’ve ever had as a head coach,” said Dahm. “It’s disappointing we didn’t support them a little more. Our pitchers did an outstanding job.”

Offensively, the team improved as the season progressed. Junior second baseman Mike McQuillan led the team in hitting (.330), RBI (31), walks (27) and on-base percentage (.410). Dahm also enjoyed watching the emergence of Bryan Niedbalski and all-Big Ten Freshman Taylor Zeutenhorst, and looks forward to the return of catcher Dan Sheppard, who missed 2011 due to injury.

“I think we have some guys who can help us from an offensive standpoint and make us stronger next year,” said Dahm.