Iowa’s bats explode in 11-2 victory

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa baseball team beat Western Illinois, 11-2, to complete its first series sweep since taking three-straight games from Indiana in May 2007.

The Hawkeyes’ small-ball approach wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard with their double-digit output, but Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said his team’s mentality was to get on base, move runners over, and find a way to cross home plate.

“We told the guys before the game even started today, with the wind blowing in, it’s not a day you’re going to be getting many extra-base hits,” Dahm said. “So our game plan was to go to small ball, use the bunt game, and I was very happy with the way we did that.”

Iowa struck first with one run in the bottom of the second inning when second baseman Mike McQuillan brought in Ryan Durant on a single to center field. Dahm called the hit one of the most important at-bats of the day because it was McQuillan’s first base knock since he went 1-for-3 at Texas on March 13.

The team strung together three hits in the fourth inning to bring in two more runs before exploding for four runs in the fifth.

Shortstop Kurt Lee led off the inning with a bunt single to third before stealing second base four pitches into Kurtis Muller’s at-bat. Muller walked, and a Zach McCool sacrifice bunt put Lee on third and Muller on second with one out.

Designated hitter Dallas Burke grounded out to short to score Lee, then an error and two singles by Sean Flanagan and Tyson Blaser pushed the other three runs across.

“That’s our big thing. Get on base, move guys over, and then when you start stealing bases that creates a lot of pressure on those guys to play defense and make good pitches,” Lee said. “When you do that, it’s going to turn into runs. Then base hits turn into numerous RBIs, and it starts to snowball from there.”

The Hawkeyes put up another crooked number in the seventh, scoring three runs — all with two outs. McCool and Andrew Host provided two doubles in the inning, but Lee and Muller again highlighted the inning.

Muller chopped a routine ground ball to short, but the speedy outfielder beat the throw by Western Illinois shortstop Cole Waddell, and Lee motored home from second.

“Just running hard and playing hard,” Muller said. “It’s what I do. It’s what we do as a team. That’s what they preach to us every game, so it’s just a habit to run hard hoping you get on.”

Dahm said the aggressiveness on the base paths is emphasized, and many of the players have “green lights” to swipe bags whenever they want.

“We don’t want a team to be comfortable against us, and we want it to be tough to defend us,” he said. “That’s a style we want to play, and when we get ourselves on the base paths, and we’re getting the bunts down, it’s tough to play against us because we have a lot of different ways we can beat you.”

After squeaking out the first two wins of the series, 4-3 on March 26 and 10-9 on March 27 — needing three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the second game — Iowa’s nine-run margin of victory brought smiles to the dugout.

“It’s a lot nicer to win that way, although I think we gained some confidence from what we did on Friday and Saturday,” Dahm said. “We continued to get better, and we have to win close games. You gain confidence through winning those close games, and so hopefully, it gave us some confidence and we can continue to build from it.”

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