Baseball looks for offense

BY RYAN YOUNG | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

Whenever Iowa head coach Jack Dahm talks about baseball, he also tries to talk about Michael Jordan.

So naturally, he couldn’t help but draw inspiration from the NBA’s newest Hall of Fame inductee following an inconsistent one-win road weekend against Purdue.

“Michael Jordan, he missed more game-winning shots than he made,” he said. “The thing is, he talked about when he’d go to the free-throw line and the game was on the line, he didn’t think about the 30 million people watching him. He didn’t think about ‘What’s going to happen if I miss.’ He basically had a routine.”

Dahm wants Iowa (11-15, 2-4) to adopt a similar offensive routine today at Banks Field in a rare two-game midweek series with Big 12 opponent Kansas (18-11, 4-4). In order to avoid the chilly temperatures forecast for Iowa City tonight, the game’s start time has been moved up from 6 to 4 p.m.

Collectively at the plate, the Hawkeyes have batted .294 through the first half of the season with six hitters posting well over a .300 average, including Iowa senior shortstop Justin Toole, who is currently riding a 15-game hit streak.

However, Kansas pitchers boasts the third-best ERA in the Big 12 at 3.96 and also rank near the top in walks allowed (74), hits allowed (246), and runs surrendered (146).

On the mound this evening and Wednesday night, the Jayhawks are expected to start juniors Brett Bollman (3-0) and Cameron Selik (1-1). Combined, Bollman and Selik have amassed 44 strikeouts and eight walks in nine starts and 12 appearances, arguably making them the two best midweek hurlers the Hawkeyes have faced to date.

“Obviously, we do know that Kansas is going to be a good test for us,” said freshman Dallas Burke, who assumed Iowa’s catching duties after former full-time starter Tyson Blaser underwent hand surgery on March 31.

“As for preparation, we’ve just got to approach it like every other game. And realistically, we’re playing against the game.”

The Hawkeyes may or may not also play against Kansas junior shortstop David Narodowski, who suffered an undisclosed ankle injury on April 3 during the Jayhawks’ weekend series with No. 7 Baylor and has since been listed as day-to-day.

Previously as the Jayhawks’ leadoff hitter, Narodowski had been an offensive staple, batting .342 with 16 RBIs and 39 hits in 114 at-bats. He stood as Kansas’ primary base stealer as well, swiping a team-high five bags in eight attempts.

Regardless, against a formidable offensive foe such as Kansas, Dahm is hoping to see signs of improvement from the Iowa pitching staff, which has tallied a 6.15 ERA — eighth in the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes’ seven-man bullpen has impressed the sixth-year Iowa head coach thus far. During the first six conference games this season, relievers have tallied 18 strikeouts and allowed seven earned runs in 20 innings.

But above all, Dahm wants to keep his non-weekend starters fresh — especially the ones who haven’t been themselves lately.

“We need to get our pitchers going a little bit — some guys who aren’t quite throwing as well right now as they had earlier,” he said. “We’d like to see them have some success in the midweek with Kansas.”

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