Injuries riddle baseball squad

BY TRAVIS VARNER | JUNE 10, 2009 7:27 AM

Injuries dashed the Iowa baseball team’s hopes of a successful 2009 season, squashing the Hawkeyes’ high preseason expectations.

Iowa had an overall record of 16-35 and a Big Ten record of 4-19, last in the conference. Head coach Jack Dahm had been excited about this season’s team because of the large number of position players returning and a strong freshman class, but key injuries ended up plaguing the team.

“I was as excited about this year’s ball club as any other I’ve had in my 16 years as a head coach, but with older guys struggling and key injuries early in the year, we ended up being an extremely young team,” Dahm said. “We don’t want to use injuries as an excuse, but we lost so many guys at key positions that we had to play many young guys — it was difficult.”

Iowa not only struggled with lack of experience, it was hurt by pitching and fielding woes. The Hawkeyes led the conference in errors and had the worst fielding percentage in the conference.

Iowa’s pitching finished eighth in ERA (6.25) and eighth in walks allowed (230), and Hawk hurlers threw a conference-high 77 wild pitches.

Senior Wes Freie understands injuries and lack of experience played a role in the amount of fielding woes, but he feels there was a confidence issue, too.

“Once we made an error or a couple of errors, we’d let it snowball, and it turned into more errors rather than making the plays we were capable of making,” he said.

Dahm was shocked by the number of wild pitches, saying he has never seen so many in one season before.

“I think the pitching staff made some nice progress this year, but we need to do a better job with the wild pitches — I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said.

Iowa did have some bright spots in the season with three players earning postseason accolades.

Senior Ryan Durant, who batted .370, was first team All-Big Ten, senior Justin Toole was third team all-conference for the third time after batting .346, and Dallas Burke was named to the all-freshman team after hitting .293.

Dahm thinks the team can bounce back from the difficult season, but he understands a rough season can be mentally grueling.

“The biggest question is, How are we going to be able to handle this mentally?” Dahm said. “We didn’t win too many games — that can beat you down from a mental standpoint. We need to make sure our guys gain some confidence this summer … put in hard work in the fall, and find a way to make sure our attitudes and our energy level is positive.”

All of the players are playing in various baseball summer leagues, concentrating on improving their games. Dahm wants his players this summer to focus on having a positive attitude, helping their summer league team win a championship, and continuing to get better.

With the core of the team returning for 2010, sophomore Kurtis Muller thinks the experience gained by younger players filling in for injured teammates could be beneficial.

“I think the freshmen and younger guys having some playing time will carry into next year,” he said. “[Next year] they’ll have more comfort with their roles.”

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