By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are countless walk-off victories, a Big Ten Tournament title, and an NCAA Regional appearance, but the thing the nine seniors on the University of Iowa baseball team are going to miss most is the team itself.
The nine seniors joined the Hawkeyes at varying points during the last four years and the group has come together to post 131 victories.
This weekend the seniors — Mitchell Boe, Luke Farley, Jason Foster, Derek Lieurance, Cole McDonald, Shane Ritter, Kyle Shimp, Tanner Wetrich, and Chris Whelan — will have their home swan song when Iowa hosts Michigan State in its final regular-season series at Duane Banks Field.
“The thing I am going to miss the most is the camaraderie with the guys and the little things that go on off the field, in the dugout and locker room that fans don’t see,” said Whelan, a three-year starter. “The games are great, the wins are great, and the championships are great, but it’s the little things with the teammates, joking around, dancing after games, and the bus rides that I am going to miss most.”
Boe, Farley, McDonald, Ritter, and Shimp joined the program as freshmen in 2016 when the Hawkeyes made a run to the Big Ten Tournament title game. A year later, Lieurance and Whelan followed and Iowa won its first Big Ten Tournament title and played in the NCAA Houston Regional.
The Hawkeyes added Wetrich to the group in 2018 and Foster joined as a graduate transfer this season.
“It has been a fun experience,” said Wetrich. “I came from a junior college and things were different there. It was a culture shock for me, but I have enjoyed my time here.”
Farley, Lieurance, and McDonald grew up in the Hawkeye State and have cherished the opportunity to play for their home-state school.
“This experience has meant the world to me,” said Lieurance. “Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to play for the University of Iowa. It has been a goal and dream of mine.”
McDonald says the Iowa program has been instrumental in his development.
“Above anything else, Iowa baseball has helped me become a better person,” said McDonald. “I can confidently say it has turned me from a kid into a man. All the experiences I have gained playing with all the teammates, there is nothing else that could replicate what I have been able to do here.
“I am grateful for head coach (Rick) Heller and all the coaches who have helped me through this process the last four years. If I didn’t have them, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Foster joined the program in the fall after winning three Horizon League titles and making NCAA Regional appearances at Wright State. He is happy with his decision to join the Hawkeyes, but says the best memories are to come.
“The best part of my experience is going to be competing in Regionals, Super Regionals, and the Big Ten Tournament,” said Foster. “We have had a good year and I think the best is yet to come.”
The Hawkeyes open their three-game series against Michigan State on Friday at 6:05 p.m. (CT). Saturday’s game will begin at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday’s contest at 1:05 p.m. Iowa will recognize the seniors in a pregame ceremony prior to first pitch.