March 7, 2013
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2012-13 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Matt Dermody pitched with the Major League Baseball Draft on his mind during his junior season with the University of Iowa baseball program. Now he’s pitching to have no regrets.
It’s an all-too-familiar theme in the landscape of college baseball — players pressing as juniors while trying to improve their draft stock.
“Sometimes the hardest thing for a baseball player who wants to play at the next level is that junior year,” said UI head coach Jack Dahm. “You start playing for the wrong reason, playing for an opportunity to get drafted and sign a pro contract, instead of going out and pitching and playing for the team.”
Dermody says the “junior-year jinx” affected him. After winning four games and posting a 4.15 ERA as a sophomore, his record dropped to 1-7 as a junior. He finished with a 4.50 ERA over 76 innings and had 60 strikeouts with 23 walks.
“Everyone wants to get drafted,” said Dermody. “When you think about it too much, you want to play harder and you want to perform better. Sometimes that can be a negative.”
Dermody was ready to sign a professional contract in 2012, but instead, he’s back leading a youth-filled Iowa rotation in his last collegiate go-round.
“My ultimate goal is to play professional baseball,” said Dermody, a senior from Norwalk, Iowa. “This is my last year, so I am leaving it all on the table. That motivates me because I don’t want to have any regrets.”
During Iowa’s first team meeting in the fall, Dahm made a point to feel out his senior lefthander and gain perspective on his mindset in returning to college for his final season.
“I asked him `What was the first thing you thought about when you decided to come back?” said Dahm. “He said, `I am going to be around my best friends and the place I love, the University of Iowa.”
“That says a lot about Matt.”
Dermody was drafted in the 23rd round by the Arizona Diamondbacks following his junior season. It was his third time being selected; he was taken in the 26th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 coming out of high school and in the 29th round by the Colorado Rockies in 2011.
Scouts understand Dermody’s potential, but the Hawkeyes have him back on the mound for another spring.
“We’re fortunate to get him back for his senior year,” said Dahm. “We thought we were going to lose him after last season when he had an opportunity to sign a pro contract.”
The Hawkeyes made it a priority to sign Dermody when he was in high school.
“Matt was a highly-recruited player,” said Dahm. “You’re talking about a 6-foot-5 lefthanded pitcher that threw hard. We thought we were going to be the first people in his house, and Arkansas and Nebraska were in July 1 and July 2. We were third.”
Dermody, who finished his prep career with a 24-13 record, was an all-state super-team pitcher and the recipient of the Bob Feller Pitching Award as a senior after compiling a 6-3 record with 164 strikeouts. He grabbed national attention during his senior season when he became the first player in state history to strike out all 18 batters faced in a six-inning perfect game.
Former Iowa pitching coach Chris Maliszewski was entering his first season with the program when the Hawkeyes started courting Dermody. Dahm jokes that Dermody was Maliszewski’s make-or-break recruit.
“I still remember when Matt and his family walked out of my office (on their official visit),” said Dahm. “I told him if you don’t commit in the next day or two, coach Maliszewski is going to be fired. We got the phone call 20 minutes later that Matt was going to come here.
“We were very fortunate to get him. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go.”
As a freshman, Dermody won three games, finishing with a 7.93 ERA, but it was the progress he made from his first start at Kansas, where he gave up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings, to his final start against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament that impressed Dahm.
“Hit first outing wasn’t very good,” said Dahm. “We learned a lot about Matt because of the way he bounced back. He learned from it and got better every game. He had some big outings as a freshman, but never got a conference start until the tournament.”
In an elimination game against Purdue, Dahm called Dermody’s number, and he responded. He allowed two runs on eight hits over six innings in an 8-3 victory that kept the Hawkeyes’ season alive.
“That game showed I could get the job done,” said Dermody. “I gained more confidence in myself because I knew that I could compete with those guys and help our team win.”
Dermody calls the 2010 Big Ten Tournament the highlight of his Hawkeye career. Iowa finished runner-up in the tournament, which tied the school’s highest finish since 1983.
“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “We were two games from getting to (NCAA) Regionals and making it to the NCAA tournament. It’s a memory I will never forget.”
Dahm says Dermody’s work ethic has made him a complete pitcher.
“The commitment on a daily basis to work is off the charts,” said Dahm. “You don’t have to worry about Matt getting his stuff done. He’s motivated to play this game for a long time, and I still believe he will.
“We expect him to have an outstanding season and continue to grow in all phases. The neat thing is, from day one, he has been a tremendous student-athlete and person.”
Dahm sees a confident Dermody at the start of the 2013 season, and it has translated to the mound. The senior is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts, and he has 10 strikeouts in 18 innings.
“He is at ease in saying let’s just go out, have some fun and help the University of Iowa win some ball games,” said Dahm. “When your team wins, that’s when the personal victories come for you as far as all-conference, All-America, and where you get drafted.”
That’s the ultimate goal for Dermody. To win games and get an opportunity to continue playing the game he loves.
“I made the right decision to come to Iowa,” said Dermody, who will graduate in May with a degree in interdepartmental business studies with a certificate in entrepreneur management. “I am getting better here.”