Feb. 3, 2015
- Read the February issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone/iPad app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team opens the season Feb. 13 and one goal is to remain playing four months from its first game. That would have them batting, fielding, and throwing into the summer…and deep into postseason.
Nine pitchers and seven starters return for the Hawkeyes who, in 2014, finished 30-23 overall, 10-14 in the Big Ten Conference. It was a six-game improvement from the previous year, but the season ended in May. And when it comes to college baseball, the month of June is the most wonderful time of the year.
“We want to play in June when it’s fun and the weather warms up,” UI head coach Rick Heller said Tuesday at Media Day inside the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “We want to be in position to win the regular season (Big Ten) championship, make a run in the conference tournament, and have a good enough season that we can get a bid into the NCAA Tournament.”
“Expectations are high. We have to come out with the same fire and desire to get back to the Big Ten Tournament. From there, make it to a regional and from there, make it to Omaha (site of the College World Series). We have the right people to do it, and we have the right backup people to do it as well. I think we can get there.”
UI senior Eric Toole
Iowa’s offense returns more than 70 percent of hits runs (236 of 337), hits (400 of 553), doubles (63 of 84), and RBIs (226 of 302). There is equal strength — and more depth — coming back on the mound in the form of 23 wins, 364 innings, 266 strikeouts, and eight saves.
“Expectations are high,” said UI senior outfielder Eric Toole, a two-time All-Big Ten selection. “We have to come out with the same fire and desire to get back to the Big Ten Tournament. From there, make it to a regional and from there, make it to Omaha (site of the College World Series). We have the right people to do it, and we have the right backup people to do it as well. I think we can get there.”
Joining Toole as team captains are seniors Jake Mangler and Kris Goodman, and junior Tyler Radtke. Mangler, a second baseman, batted .315 with 13 extra base hits and 45 RBIs; Toole, a center fielder, batted .302 with 12 extra base hits and 14 stolen bases; Goodman, a left fielder, batted .284 with 12 extra base hits; and Radtke, compiled a 2-2 record, three saves, and a 3.89 ERA.
“You want to win a championship,” Goodman said. “We weren’t able to do that last year. We had some success and were able to build the program a little more, but it doesn’t stop there. There are higher expectations.”
Goodman calls the 2015 Hawkeyes a close group.
“There is a lot of energy, and it’s a sense of a brotherhood and you want to play and win for each other,” Goodman said.
Heller enjoyed a successful first season as head coach of the Hawkeyes, a time he said allowed everyone in the program to get their “feet underneath them.” Since going 1-2 at the 2014 Big Ten Tournament, Heller saw his team take small steps, building to the start of practice.
“I feel good about where we’re at, we’re older and more mature,” Heller said. “All the guys who were here last year and were key players have improved. We have been progressing every day since I got the job a year and a half ago.”
The rest of the baseball community feels good about Iowa, too. And the Hawkeyes aren’t backing down from their lofty outlook.
“They don’t think of it as pressure, they think of it as a great challenge and something that could be a lot of fun,” Heller said.
While veterans will lead the Hawkeyes, there is plenty of “new” surrounding the program: new jerseys, new playing surface, new practice facility at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center.
“It shows a lot of people care,” said UI senior Nick Day. “We’re getting a lot of support. In previous years it has been coming from within; this shows the whole community is stepping behind us. It gives us a confidence boost.”
Seventeen student-athletes on the Hawkeye roster are native Iowans, including junior pitcher Calvin Mathews from Bloomfield.
“Getting the best talent in the state of Iowa is coach Heller’s main goal,” Mathews said. “For me, there were no other schools in my decision process. I was going to be a Hawkeye and make everybody in my hometown proud so they could come and watch me play as well.”
Iowa opens the season Feb. 13-15 with three games at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida.