May 28, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — There are 39 examples the University of Iowa baseball team can fall back to boost its confidence heading into Friday’s NCAA Regional matchup against third-seeded Oregon.
The 39 examples involve 39 wins — the most by an Iowa program since 1985.
The Hawkeyes are rested and re-energized with the program’s first NCAA Tournament game in a quarter century looming. Iowa won its first 11 series and didn’t have a losing weekend until week 14 at Rutgers. The team went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis.
“We had a little rough patch, but fortunately, we have 39 examples of how to play, and that’s who we are,” said senior captain Kris Goodman. “We are fortunate to be able to look back on the way we struggled and see that’s not who we are.”
UI head coach Rick Heller feels good about Iowa’s team psyche heading into this weekend’s NCAA Regional at Hammons Field. The second-year manager saw a focused, loose group in the three practices before traveling to Springfield.
“We were lacking some energy the last 10 days,” said Heller. “We rested up and had a great practice Monday and two more Tuesday and Wednesday. The guys were flying around having fun (Thursday). I think we’ll be good to go.”
“The guys have a little more drive,” said senior Nick Day. “Everybody is relaxed and having fun. We’re trying to have fun with (this experience).”
Heller is stressing the importance of Iowa staying true to its identity.
“The most important thing in any tournament is you don’t have to be any different than you were all year,” said Heller, who is leading his third Division I program to NCAA Regional play. “When guys get in trouble, they try too hard. They want to succeed so much that it backfires on them.”
Heller says the key to the tournament lies on the mound and the defense behind it.
“If you throw strikes and make routine plays — just play catch — those are the teams that keep moving,” he said. “It’s the teams that self-destruct that are eliminated quickly.”
The Springfield Regional includes No. 8 national seed and host Missouri State, Oregon, a team that has won five straight series, including 2-of-3 games last weekend against No. 1 national seed UCLA, and an offensive Canisius squad that is the Metro Atlantic Conference champion.
“Everyone in this tournament can beat you,” said Heller. “They can all hit and pitch… you have to play your game. That is my message to the team… you don’t have to be anything different than who you are.
“All I can do is trust that they’ll go out and perform like they’re capable of.”
It’s a formula that has worked for the Hawkeyes this season, and Heller has 39 examples to help him prove his point.
Friday’s game will begin at 1:05 p.m. (CT), and it will be available on ESPN3/WatchESPN with Anish Shroff and Landon Powell on the call.