Pitching gem lifts Hawks

BY RYAN YOUNG | MAY 11, 2009 7:28 AM

Senior Day belonged to a freshman on Sunday.

Masterfully painting both sides of the plate with his high-80s fastball and fooling batters with an especially nasty curve, Jarred Hippen pitched a gem during Iowa’s final home game of the season.

Allowing three runs on four hits while racking up six strikeouts through a career-high 71⁄3 innings, the shaggy-haired fledgling lowered his previous 5.60 ERA and picked up his third win of the year — a perfect Mother’s Day gift for his mom, Trisha, who was in attendance.

It was also the type of performance head coach Jack Dahm said he foresaw after giving Hippen a week’s worth of rest instead of his regular five days following a 12-3 loss on the road against Minnesota on May 3.

“We kind of anticipated a good outing from him,” the sixth-year Iowa coach said. “The thing is, we made a couple mistakes behind him, and he kept his composure after those mistakes.
“He’s starting to grow up a little bit as a pitcher.”

It’s the sort of growth that makes Dahm feel good about the future of the Hawkeye pitching staff, which currently boasts a combined 6.22 ERA — the worst in the Big Ten.

Through three innings, the 19-year-old rookie opened with a strikeout and ended with a double play, even when he fell into a bases-loaded jam in the top of the third.

“The team and I were kind of joking about it,” Hippen said with a wide grin. “We were saying, ‘Oh just strike out the first guy, walk the next guy, and get a double play every single inning.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know if that will keep working, but I’ll try.’ ”

Funny enough, he nearly duplicated the feat in the fourth. Hippen got Penn State lead-off hitter Jordan Steranka to strike out swinging, but then retired the side in order with two straight pop ups, ending his freakish pitching pattern.

The 6-3 southpaw then had another efficient 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, tallying his fifth strikeout as he continued to cruise with Iowa leading, 1-0.

But despite tossing five-consecutive scoreless frames, Hippen pitched his way into a second jam in the top of the sixth.

Clearly flustered after putting runners on first and second, he pitched cautiously around Nittany Lion cleanup hitter Mike Deese, who fouled off numerous offerings before eventually lacing a two-RBI single into left to give Penn State a 2-1 advantage.

One batter later, Hippen forced a grounder to dodge further damage.

“His rhythm did get a little bit disrupted, but he did a great job of settling down and getting that final out after the guy had a base hit down the line,” Iowa freshman catcher Dallas Burke said. “He really did a great job of just making sure that he checked himself when he needed to settle down and threw just a great ball game.”

Even when he wasn’t getting calls behind the plate from umpire Mike Droll, Hippen said, he never let himself get overly emotional. Although, a few of those calls would have kept him from being pulled midway through the eighth.

He still left the game to a standing ovation, however.

“It happens,” Hippen said. “I mean, it’s human nature. You’re going to make mistakes. I mean, it happens, and you’re going to have to live with it.”

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