Baseball to face Coe at Banks

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 25, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa baseball coach Jack Dahm knows winning games and worrying about outcomes don’t go hand in hand.

That’s why at 4 p.m. today, when his team plays its fourth home game of the season at Banks Field, it won’t only be Iowa versus Division-III Coe College. Dahm said it’ll also be the Hawkeyes versus the game of baseball.

“We don’t need to be concerned about whom we’re playing against,” the sixth-year Iowa coach said before Tuesday’s practice. “We need to be concerned about us approaching the field the right way and playing the game that we know we’re capable of. I think that’s something that we’ve learned. We were trying to be so results-oriented, I think it put a lot of pressure on us.”

After finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten standings a year ago, though, that pressure wasn’t without merit during the first four weeks of the season. The Hawkeyes missed the postseason in 2008, going went 22-33 overall and 10-22 in conference play.

“Starting out [this] year coming right out of the Bubble, you know, getting right into the action, it was kind of difficult,” center fielder Kurtis Muller said. “But once we got things rolling, we kind of figured out who is going to be playing where, the batting order, and things like that, and I think everyone got a little more comfortable with himself — everyone knew his role.”

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For seven games, however, Muller was absent from his. The sophomore suffered a pulled hamstring during Iowa’s game against Georgetown during the Big Ten/Big East Challenge on Feb. 22 and didn’t return to the field until March 15, when the Hawkeyes beat then-No. 25 Louisville, 2-1.

Even worse, Muller said, the injury happened on the basepaths after he had tallied his first hit of the season following an early 0-for-7 slump.

His misfortune, however, opened up a spot in the lineup for junior Ryan Durrant, who ultimately batted 9-for-28 (.321) as Iowa’s temporary center fielder while Muller healed. Overall in 56 at-bats, Durrant has amassed a .339 average with five doubles and nine RBIs, which has since granted him an outfield position.

Seeing that kind of depth come out of the Hawkeye dugout was pleasing for Muller during his three-week hiatus.

“That’s what we do,” he said. “You know, if someone gets hurt, it’s the next guy’s turn. It’s just about picking each other up and moving along as a team.”

Freshman Dallas Burke filled in for injured catchers Tyson Blaser and Kody McManis over the last few weeks for the Hawkeyes, hitting .250 with eight hits in 20 at bats in eight games played.

Iowa has also been searching for a second baseman, rotating between freshmen Andrew Ewing and Mike McQuillan, who have stood in for former starter Zach McCool.

It’s all part of the team’s effort to adjust for left-handed and right-handed pitching.

Dahm said Iowa’s batting order against Coe today will primarily consist of left-handers to start the game, but he will adjust the lineup accordingly should any lefties come out of the Kohawk bullpen.
So far, the Hawkeyes’ offense has highlighted several inspiring wins, including a 25-6 thrashing against Tennessee-Martin on March 18.

“We feel like the games we lost this year, we beat ourselves,” senior shortstop Justin Toole said. “And we feel like the games we won, we’ve played better than the other team. So it’s just a matter of going on and performing.”

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