May 15, 2014
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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team is one victory from clinching its first Big Ten Tournament berth since 2010, but the Hawkeyes have bigger aspirations heading into their final regular season series at Purdue.
“We can’t think about it that we have to win one game,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “I am thinking of it as we have to sweep so we can get a fourth or fifth seed and not have to play Indiana or Illinois in the first round. That’s the attitude our team needs to take heading into this week.”
Iowa brings a 27-20 overall and 8-13 record into today’s series opener against the Boilermakers. Purdue is 12-35 overall and 5-16 in Big Ten play, but a home sweep would give the Boilermakers a spot next week in Omaha.
UI junior Jake Yacinich says the team knows what is at stake in West Lafayette.
“We have a chance to do something this program hasn’t done in a few years, and we’re all embracing that. We’re not shooting for just one win, if we can get two or a sweep, we can move up the standings and give us a better chance (at the Big Ten Tournament).”
UI junior Jake Yacinich
“We have a chance to do something this program hasn’t done in a few years, and we’re all embracing that,” he said. “We’re not shooting for just one win, if we can get two or a sweep, we can move up the standings and give us a better chance (at the Big Ten Tournament).”
During the three-game sweep at the hands of Illinois last weekend at Banks Field, Heller says it was the first time all season where he saw the Hawkeyes pressing.
“Saturday (May 10) was a day for the first time we reverted back to ‘Oh, we have to win today,'” said Heller. “I sensed they were putting pressure on themselves and that’s how we played. Our at-bats weren’t very good, and I could tell in the dugout there was tension.
“They wanted to win so bad that they were wishing for it instead of just playing the game. They wanted to win so bad and put it out of the question that we were going to get into the tournament.”
Yacinich believes the Hawkeyes ran into a buzz saw against a talented Illinois pitching staff, and the team didn’t help itself with an uncharacteristic bad weekend at the plate.
“For the better half of this year, we’ve been playing great baseball,” said Yacinich. “We need to get back to doing that this weekend.”
Heller says it will be important for the Hawkeyes to stay loose and remember the things that brought them to this point in the season.
“The last thing I want them thinking about is we have to win a game,” he said. “That’s asking to get swept. We’re going to try to keep them loose, do what they have been doing, and not change anything.
“It’s a rare occasion when you hear me say anything about winning (a game). We talk more about winning on a daily basis and with effort because in baseball you can play great and lose, and you can play terrible and win.
“All you can do is control yourself and eliminate giving free bases away. If you eliminate free bases, you win most of the time. We need to keep our guys focused on things they can control.. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance to have a good weekend.”
Thursday and Friday’s games will begin at 5:30 p.m. (CT) at Alexander Field, while Saturday’s series finale is slated for a 1 p.m. start. All three games will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network.