Baseball takes series against Illinois


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Sunday’s game against Illinois didn’t begin the way Phil Schreiber had hoped.

But the contest ended with a “W” next to his name.

The sophomore righty allowed just two runs on five hits in eight innings of work, leading the Hawkeyes (12-16, 3-3) to a 4-2 win against the Fighting Illini (13-13, 3-2) at Banks Field on Sunday.

Iowa’s starting hurler took the mound looking to rebound from his last start when he was shellacked by Michigan State hitters on April 4, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 32⁄3 innings.

Sunday’s game started a little too similarly.

With one run surrendered, Schreiber found himself in a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the second inning. His curve ball didn’t break. His command was absent.

But most importantly, he wasn’t being aggressive. And his catcher sensed it.

“I thought he came out a little bit soft, to tell you the truth,” Iowa catcher Tyson Blaser said.

The early trouble prompted Iowa head coach Jack Dahm to stroll to the mound for a conference with his starter.

“[Dahm] was like, ‘Hey, you’re not a a freshman anymore. Step it up, and throw some strikes. You’ve done this. You’ve been here. You can do this,’ ” Schreiber said.

Those words resonated. The second-year thrower said he calmed down after the mound visit, and it showed. Schreiber gave up just one more run — which scored on a Hawkeye error — and escaped the inning with a 3-2 lead intact for Iowa.

From then on, the Kaukauna, Wis., native pitched on cruise control. Confidence seemed to drip off of every baseball that flew out of Schreiber’s right hand, and Blaser said he saw his teammate grow on the mound.

“You could tell as it went on he got better,” Blaser said. “He started pinpointing balls and using the wind to his advantage.”

Blaser and Schreiber spent the remainder of the game spotting pitches on the outside corner of the plate. The duo used that strategy — tailored to the heavy wind blowing in from right field — to tempt the primarily right-handed Illinois batting order into hitting a great number of lazy fly balls for easy outs.

Schreiber’s dominance carried him through the eighth inning, and he allowed just two more hits the rest of the afternoon on the way to his third win of the season.

He swiftly deflected praise to his teammates in the field, calling the Hawkeye defense “awesome” and even taking the blame for the team’s sole error.

“That was partly my fault,” he said. “I wasn’t throwing strikes. I wasn’t keeping everyone in the game.”

That relationship between pitching and defense isn’t a new phenomenon for the Hawkeyes. Dahm has seen solid pitching performances lead to better defensive performances throughout the season.

“It’s amazing when we have pitchers on the mound that are under control, and they’re working with pace,” he said. “All of a sudden, we build confidence defensively.”

And looking forward, the seventh-year Iowa skipper is hoping outings like Sunday’s become more frequent for Schreiber.

“We feel like Phil is the perfect guy on Sunday,” Dahm said. “He throws 90-92 miles per hour, and like I said, the ball gets on you a little bit. When guys get tired, we expect people to hit some lazy fly balls off him. And that’s what happened today.”

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