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Baseball’s top three ignite offense


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Hitting is contagious in baseball.

The top of the Hawkeyes’ order demonstrated that perfectly in Iowa’s 9-3 win against Wisconsin-Milwaukee Tuesday night.

Iowa’s 1-2-3 hitters — Kurtis Muller, Zach McCool, and Mike McQuillan — combined for six runs and five hits, and that offensive pop seemed to spread throughout the Hawkeyes’ lineup quickly.

“All of a sudden, you’re starting to see it go throughout our lineup, having a better approach,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “And we’re starting to swing the bat better and better.”

Iowa’s table-setting trio wasted no time in putting a dent in the scoreboard at Banks Field.

Muller led off the Hawkeye half of the first inning with a single to center field. The junior center fielder then swiped second base on the second pitch of the following at-bat.

Two pitches later, junior Zach McCool chopped a single through the middle of the infield for a single, scoring Muller from second base.

Sophomore Mike McQuillan didn’t disrupt the hitting.

The second baseman lifted the second pitch he saw down the left-field line and to the wall for a double, putting McCool 90 feet away from home plate.

And on the first eight pitches, the Hawkeyes scattered three hits, plated one run, and placed runners at second and third.

Dahm said early hitting helps the confidence of the entire lineup.

“When you’re relaxed when you’re hitting, good things can happen to you,” he said.

That quick start helped the Iowa order maintain a relaxed approach at the plate for the rest of the night. The same three hitters keyed the Hawkeyes’ five-run seventh inning, which blew the game open.

Andrew Ewing was hit by a pitch to begin the seventh frame. Muller followed with a single, and McCool concluded a nine-pitch at-bat by ripping the evening’s hardest hit ball off the right-center field wall for a two-RBI double.

Next, McQuillan got aboard the base once again via a walk.

Not only did the hitting of Iowa’s top three batters please their coach, it eased the duties of cleanup hitter Ryan Durant.

The senior right fielder smoked a double through the left field gap to plate both McQuillan and McCool in the first inning.

“It makes my approach at the plate a little bit simpler,” Durant said. “[I can] just look for a pitch I can move, you know, not necessarily have to get a base hit out of it, or square something up real well. Just move the baseball on the ground or get something deep in the air.”

Just as the top of the order’s offensive onslaught ignited confidence in the rest of the team, Muller credited confidence as a big reason for the trio’s timely hitting.

“We’re pretty confident,” Muller said. “You have to have that confidence that you’re going to get the job done in any situation, and if you don’t have that between the ears, you’re going to struggle.”

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