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Baseball has positive approach to 2010

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa baseball team may have finished last season with a 16-35 overall record, but the Hawkeyes hope a positive attitude and a re-established team identity will add to their win total in 2010.

“I think we’ve made as much progress as any team I’ve been around,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “I’m very excited about the guys’ work ethic and their attitudes. To me, the biggest thing is we learned a lot last year.”

Dahm said for the last two years, the baseball team has lacked an identity. This year, he is establishing a team-oriented approach.

Players must know and accept their roles, Dahm said, and the players have embraced the challenge.
Catcher and designated hitter Dallas Burke best exemplified Dahm’s approach last season. Burke started 25 games in 2009, but with the return of junior Tyson Blaser from injury, the sophomore’s role behind the plate will be diminished.

Burke didn’t express disappointment, though, only eagerness.

“I’ll take whatever role Coach gives me,” he said. “As long as I get the opportunity to keep helping the team, that would be great.”

Dahm said Iowa’s identity on the diamond would be a throwback to years past. The defense, which was shaky last season, has turned around and will be a key to this season’s success, he said.

“We want to be a gritty team, one that’s going to put pressure on people, and one that’s going to be able to learn to handle adversity,” the sixth-year head coach said. “Last year, we had a lot of tough breaks with injuries, and we didn’t handle that very well. Some of it had to do with the people who were filling in were young guys — freshmen who didn’t know what to expect and got thrown into the fire."

Last season, three freshmen finished in the top three on the team in innings pitched — southpaw Jarred Hippen, and right-handers Nick Brown and Phil Schreiber.

While none finished the season with an ERA lower than 4.57, the experience should be beneficial to the fledgling hurlers.

“Our top three guys last year were all freshmen,” Blaser said. “So even though they’re young, they have experience. I’m really excited for what we have on the mound.”

With excitement comes a positive attitude that each member of the team shares.

Senior outfielder Ryan Durant said the atmosphere is different, and practices are more productive.

Last year was negative, he said, but the Hawkeyes are moving forward.

“This has been a fun team to be around,” Dahm said. “They have a little more seriousness to them, a bit of a workmanlike approach. That’s allowed us to make strides in a hurry.”

Outfielder Kurtis Muller echoed his coach. The junior said the team is still having fun, but a more serious fun. The players joke around, he said, but know when it’s time to get down to business.

Iowa will need to push itself in order to improve on its last-place Big Ten finish, but Dahm is confident the Hawkeyes’ reinvigorated attitude will bring success.

“One of the big things we need to teach the guys is that it’s the same game, and if you play a solid game, you have a good opportunity to win,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a lot better off this year because of some of the things we went through last year.

“I don’t want to say we got hardened a little bit last year, but we understand there’s going to be adversity.”


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