Baseball puts streak on line

BY JEFF PAWOLA | APRIL 24, 2009 7:29 AM

After claiming three-straight victories, the Iowa baseball team will try to continue the winning streak when it meets Michigan State at 6 p.m. today at Banks Field.

The Hawkeyes’ latest victory came against Northern Iowa in a come-from-behind 5-4 victory on Wednesday.

“It gives us some confidence to win three games in a row and to play well three games in a row, too,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “Our guys know we can win late even when we’re behind, so that should give us a little bit of momentum. But everybody knows Friday is a new day. We just need to keep playing, and, hopefully, [the game against Northern Iowa] can spur us on through.”

Michigan State comes into Iowa City with a slightly worse record at 14-23; however, the Spartans own a better record in Big Ten play at 5-7. The Hawkeyes (14-22, 3-8) rest in 10th place in the conference, one-half game ahead of bottom feeder Northwestern, a team the Hawks split two games with last weekend in Evanston, Ill.

As a result, the Hawkeyes have yet to win a Big Ten series — dropping two of three against Michigan and Purdue to start conference play and getting swept against Indiana before splitting with Northwestern.

“Last weekend, we were pretty confident. We could have pulled it out against Northwestern,” junior outfielder Ryan Durant said. “We just basically need to come out and play hard, play like we can.”

The Spartans on the contrary, have won two series, but have also been swept in two series. Because of the Spartans’ inconsistent play, Michigan State is only one spot higher in the Big Ten standings — ninth.

“We can’t look at the Michigan State series as anything other than we have to come out and play a good, solid game on Friday,” Dahm said. “We can’t worry about what anybody else in this league is doing. That’s out of our control. The only thing that we can control is our effort and our energy level on Friday.”

Iowa lost three of four last year to the Spartans, but it will look to turn things around with its newly resurgent bats. During their nine-game losing streak, the Hawkeyes were averaging slightly fewer than four runs per game; in Iowa’s current three-game winning streak, the Hawkeyes are averaging just under 12 runs per game with 35 total runs.

“Our bats have come alive a little bit here in the past couple games,” senior shortstop Justin Toole said. “It’s just matter of getting hits to fall and scoring runs. The way our pitching has been going out there, doing its job, keeping us in games, we’re pretty confident right now.”

Iowa will rely on its usual Friday pitching starter Nick Brown. The freshman is 2-3 on the year with a 5.20 ERA in nine appearances. Following Brown will be a pair of freshman pitchers on Saturday and April 26, southpaw Jarred Hippen and right-hander Phil Schreiber.

“You know, it started with the defensive side, with the pitching and also with the defense,” Dahm said. “Again, our pitching is doing well.”

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