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Mental game lifts Hippen

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | MARCH 25, 2010 7:30 AM

Mohammed Alhadab/The Daily Iowan
Iowa sophomore pitcher Jarred Hippen pitches during practice at Banks Field on Tuesday. The left hander has established himself as the Hawkeyes’ ace after five starts this season.
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Jarred Hippen arrived at Iowa with more than enough talent to be a great pitcher.

One of three freshman hurlers who each recorded a team-high nine starts in 2009, the rookie showed traces of brilliance, but he was inconsistent. He ended the season with a 3-4 record and an ERA of 4.87.

This season, Hippen has virtually cemented himself as the Hawkeyes’ ace after five starts.

The 6-3 southpaw’s record is 1-2, but he boasts a 3.06 ERA and is allowing an average of only 1.36 walks and hits per inning.

Head coach Jack Dahm credits maturation.

Hippen has learned to work harder and is physically stronger. But Dahm said the biggest difference is the lefty’s mental approach.

“Even the days that he hasn’t felt as good or didn’t have his best stuff, he’s been able to go out and give us quality innings,” Dahm said. “He’s not getting as frustrated when things aren’t going his way. He’s able to stay the course and play the game, pitch-by-pitch.”

While Hippen’s maturity has progressed tremendously, his certainty in himself hasn’t lagged too far behind.

His self-assurance is perceptible to teammates. Senior outfielder Ryan Durant couldn’t help but flash a grin when asked about Hippen.

“He’s always confident in himself, but I love the kid for it,” Durant said. “He has every right to be as confident as he is, and he should be.”

That confidence is infectious in the Hawkeye lineup. When Hippen hits the mound, Durant is confident Iowa can win the game with three runs.

“It kind of makes you a little more relaxed at the plate,” Durant said. “You know you don’t have to do too much.”

Last season taught Hippen to never take any hitter — or team — for granted. The Rock Island, Ill., native said he learned not to throw too much off-speed — that’s when he gave up hits.

This year, he knows to pound the strike zone with fastballs early.

The shaggy-haired sophomore demonstrated that knowledge and his improvement most emphatically on March 12 against then third-ranked Texas in Austin.

Throwing opposite of the Longhorns’ Taylor Jungmann, who many say is the premier collegiate pitcher in the country, Hippen threw what Dahm called maybe the best-pitched game he’s seen during his seven-year tenure at Iowa.

Jungmann went 71⁄3 innings, striking out 17 Hawkeyes and giving up one run on five hits. While Hippen may not have matched Jungmann in strikeouts, he topped him in durability. The Iowa left-hander gave up just as many runs (one) on just as many hits (five) but recorded three more outs than the Texas flamethrower.

Texas won the game, 2-1, on a 10th-inning home run hit off of a reliever, but Hippen proved he could battle with the nation’s elite.

Dahm said Hippen’s next step is approaching every game with the same focus he brought to the mound against Texas. Nonetheless, he thinks his top starter is beginning to realize what it takes on a daily basis to be successful.

“He’s got to take that approach he had against Texas every day, and that’s what I’m expecting from him,” Dahm said. “That’s what he needs to demand from himself, also. If he does that, he can be one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.”


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