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Baseball almost blows lead

BY RYAN YOUNG | APRIL 01, 2009 7:40 AM

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Following a disheartening weekend series with Michigan, Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said he had three goals for his team entering the midweek: Clean up on defense, extend the pitching, and continue the offensive success.

To a degree, the Hawkeyes accomplished all of those objectives Tuesday night against Division-II Upper Iowa. That is, the Hawks had accomplished the objectives until an eight-run lead collapsed in the ninth inning. Iowa managed to escape with an 11-8 win.

But Dahm was without junior starting catcher Tyson Blaser, who elected to have surgery on his throwing hand Tuesday to repair ligament damage in his right thumb, which he suffered on March 14 in a road game with then-No. 25 Louisville. As a result, he will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“There is a chance he can come back late in the year,” Dahm said. “But I’m not too sure if it’s going to be realistic because he is going to be immobilized for a while. It’s a tough break for us. You know, we’re going to miss Tyson, but that’s part of the game.”

In Iowa’s game with Upper Iowa, the Hawkeyes batted around in the bottom of the third, plating six runs on five hits to quickly take a commanding lead. After senior shortstop Justin Toole laced a double down the third-base line to score a run, sophomore center fielder Kurtis Muller scorched a two-out, two-RBI double to dead center.

Immediately following, the Hawkeyes’ designated hitter Wes Freie launched a two-run home run for a 5-0 lead. Sophomore Zach McCool drove in the sixth run with a line-drive single to center.

“It was good to get guys on and in scoring position,” Freie said. “We’ve been doing that all year, just sometimes we’ve been struggling knocking them in.”

Upper Iowa didn’t counter until the top of the fifth, when the Peacocks’ Joe Rosalez tallied a run on a one-out grounder to second, scoring teammate Erik Sorensen from third.

But in the bottom of the inning, Iowa tacked on a pair of insurance runs when freshman Chett Zeise notched a RBI bases-loaded single. Another run was walked in, giving the Hawkeyes an 8-1 advantage.

The Peacocks added a second run in the sixth. However, Freie seemed to put the contest out of reach in the bottom of the frame with a three-run jack that cleared the left-center scoreboard, putting Iowa up 11-2.

The Hawkeyes began fielding alternates afterwards, and Upper Iowa rallied in the final innings to plate six more runs on pitching and fielding miscues.

“It was unfortunate the way we ended just because we lost our focus a little bit,” Zeise said. “Besides that, we just have to really focus on playing 27 outs the entire game, and I think we’ll be all right. It’s not really discouraging for the team, just jump back on it [on Wednesday].”

Iowa will play Illinois State on the road tonight. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.; it can be heard on KXIC 800 AM.


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