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Freshman hurler grows up on the mound

BY J.T. BUGOS | APRIL 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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Matt Dermody struggled in his first two starts of his Iowa career, but the southpaw flashed his potential the third time around on Tuesday.

Dermody’s first start came against Kansas on March 7, and the Jayhawks rocked the freshman for eight earned runs in 12⁄3 innings.

The next time he toed the rubber to begin a game came 23 days later against South Dakota State — a marginally better start. Dermody allowed seven earned runs in 31⁄3 innings.

On Tuesday against Western Illinois, Dermody tossed a career-high six innings, allowed four earned runs, and struck out four.

“What I really took from those first two starts is to not throw it down the middle,” he said. “Hit my spots and get my better command, and also my breaking balls. I need to throw those for strikes.”

Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said college baseball can be humbling at times. After Dermody’s success in high school, where he once threw a perfect game and struck out all 18 batters, the Norwalk, Iowa, native’s first two starts shot his confidence.

But catcher Dan Sheppard said he saw more swagger on the mound against the Leathernecks.

“Once you make pitches, your confidence goes up,” Sheppard said. “I thought he had confidence all day, except that inning maybe he got a little shaky.”

The shaky inning came in the fourth, when Western Illinois struck for three runs. In previous starts, Dahm said he may not have expected Dermody to rebound.

But the 19-year-old allowed just one earned run over his next two frames.

“He did a lot better job of keeping his composure and making quality pitches after that,” Dahm said.

“It’s a game that you have to stay in the moment. You have to take it pitch to pitch, and he did a pretty good job from that standpoint.”

Dermody said the key to getting out of that inning was keeping his pitches low in the strike zone and letting his fielders make plays behind him. He used the outside zone to get ahead of hitters.

Then said he tried to leave them flailing at his changeup.

But even with his success on the mound, Dermody still has fine-tuning before he takes the hill next. Dahm said the lanky lefty is tipping his pitches, and Leatherneck batters often knew what they were getting served.

“That’s something he has to clean up because they were able to pick up his pitches,” the seven-year head coach said. “I thought he was making some good pitches, but they knew what was coming, and they were able to sit on his fastball and lay off his breaking ball. Every hitter becomes better when he knows what’s coming.”

Dermody also mixed up two-seam and four-seam fastballs.

Dahm said his pitcher left his two-seamer over the plate and located his four-seamer outside instead of inside.

Dermody may not be Greg Maddux or Roy Halladay yet, Dahm said, but the 6-5 southpaw should be in a figure in the Hawkeye rotation for the near future.

“He’s got a chance to be an outstanding pitcher for us, but it’s a learning process,” Dahm said. “And he grew up a little bit today. You can see he gained a little bit of confidence out there, and he’ll get another opportunity next week.”

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