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
HOUSTON, Texas — It’s back to being an underdog for the University of Iowa baseball team as it opens NCAA Regional play Friday night at Schroeder Park.
The Hawkeyes are the Houston Regional’s No. 4 seed. They are looking up at top-seeded Houston, the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament champion, second-seeded Baylor and third-seeded Texas A&M.
Iowa is the regional’s dark horse.
“We have been the underdogs all year,” said junior Jake Adams, who was named a Collegiate Baseball second-team All-American on Thursday. “We know what kind of team we are. If we go out and play our best and the pitchers throw the best they can, we have a chance to be special.”
Iowa was special when it went 4-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, knocking off three higher seeded opponents to reach the title game. The Hawkeyes defeated fourth-seeded Maryland, second-seeded Nebraska, and third-seeded Minnesota to reach the championship game.
The Hawkeyes Iowa rolled Northwestern, 13-4, to claim its first Big Ten Tournament crown to clinch their second NCAA Regional berth in three seasons.
That fairytale feeling of accomplishment faded along Interstate 74 and I-80 during the Hawkeyes return trip to Iowa City from Bloomington, Indiana. Once Iowa learned its NCAA Regional destination, the team went back to work.
“Last weekend is done and over with now,” said senior shortstop Mason McCoy. “We got the job done and enjoyed it while it lasted, but as soon as that day was over and we got back to practice, it was back to business. We’re getting back out there and trying to win the next tournament.”
The next tournament is the biggest of the season, and the Hawkeyes believe they belong.
“We have a full head of steam and truly believe that no one can stop us right now,” said sophomore Chris Whelan, who was the Big Ten Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “We believe that we can beat any team, regardless of the name.
“We’re playing the baseball at the end of the day; it’s Iowa versus the baseball. I think every guy on this team believes that. If we keep that mentality, we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Expectations outside the Hawkeyes’ travel party are tepid, but the team knows if it can stick to the principals of Iowa baseball they’ll have a fighting chance.
“Hellerball is one of our staples,” said Whelan. “It’s every single guy is ready to pick up whoever if someone doesn’t get the job done. The next guy is going to pick them up.
“We have the ultimate confidence in ourselves. At the end of the day, if you play the game right then good things will happen. It’s what we believe in and how we function as a team.”
The Hawkeyes play the game the right way, and they know this is the time of the year where Cinderella stories can emerge.
“Ultimately, anyone can beat anybody at this point,” said McCoy. “We’re surrounded by good teams in every regional now. It’s about who shows up and if you’re hot, that’s the team that is going to move on.”
Friday’s game will be televised on ESPNU with Lowell Galindo and Keith Moreland on the call.