Baseball hosts Illinois in three-game set

BY J.T. BUGOS | APRIL 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Two midweek games were canceled earlier this week, but the Iowa baseball team may have benefited more from unexpected practice than suiting up for games.

On Tuesday, Iowa was scheduled to play Western Illinois for the fourth time this season, but rain postponed the contest until a later date.

Iowa planned on traveling to Des Moines on Wednesday to face the Iowa Cubs — the Triple A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs — but wet conditions left Principal Park without Hawkeye cleat marks.

Head coach Jack Dahm said in years past Iowa was in the opposite dugout from current Chicago Cubs players Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot. Ultimately, though, the seven-year head coach was happy the Hawkeyes picked up some extra down time.

“My No. 1 thing right now would be the fatigue, being a little tired from all the travel,” he said. “We were able to spend some time working on our defense and working on our swings, so I think in a round-about way it could have been a positive thing.”

The chance to play the I-Cubs would have been a learning experience for a young team.

“That was more of an opportunity to get on the field and see the way those guys play, how they respect the game, and learn from them,” Zach McCool said. “We missed that opportunity, and we really wish we got over there. But all in all, we had a good practice, and we got our feet back underneath us, so it wasn’t all that bad.”

Dahm said Hall-of-Fame infielder Ryne Sandberg had agreed to speak to the team on Wednesday, which, the head coach said, would have been a “neat experience.”

McCool said the break from games helped the Hawkeyes clean up some aspects of their game — not that his latest showing required much revamping. He collected five hits in six at-bats, tying a school single-game record, and added two RBIs and three runs scored in Iowa’s last game, against Michigan State on Sunday.

Outfielder Ryan Durant said it “sucked” not being able to get on the diamond with the I-Cubs, but he agreed with his teammate and coach.

“I think the extra practice helped more. Instead of just continue to play, and play, and play, we were able to take a break and break down what we did last weekend against Michigan State,” the senior said. “We got some good practice in this week and improve even though we weren’t playing games.”

After throwing a complete game in his last outing, southpaw sophomore Jarred Hippen will toe the rubber for Iowa today against Illinois.

McCool said having the Hawkeye ace on the mound energizes the team, and his pace of play and strike-throwing ability makes life easier on the fielders. McCool is confident Iowa has a chance to tally a victory with Hippen on the hill, and Dahm expressed the same sentiments.

“We hope he just continues to get better and builds off the success he had last week,” Dahm said.

“That can be a big thing for us. We always feel like we have a very good opportunity to win when Jarred is pitching, and there’s no difference [today].”

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