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Northern Illinois routs baseball Hawks

BY J.T. BUGOS | APRIL 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Zach McCool laced a line drive towards right field, but Northern Illinois second baseman Marvin Sanchez laid out and snagged the would-be hit to end the sixth inning.

It was one of those nights for the Hawkeyes, who fell to the Huskies, 13-2.

The first inning didn’t foreshadow the Hawkeyes’ lack of offense, though. Leadoff man Kurtis Muller stroked the second pitch he saw to the right-center field gap, ignored Iowa head coach Jack Dahm’s stop signal as he rounded second, and flew into third base with a triple.

Two pitches later Zach McCool brought Muller home with a groundout to second.

“They came out and scored two, and we responded with one,” Muller said. “Can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s just a matter of sustaining the at-bats and the good vibes we had going.”

The Hawkeyes couldn’t muster another hit against Northern Illinois starter Jake Hermsen. The Huskie southpaw came into the game with a 15.60 ERA and more walks than innings pitched.

Through seven innings, he gave up just one hit ball and struck out 10, allowing just the first-inning run.

“He started throwing a two-seam fastball, and he got a little run on it, and it gave him some confidence,” Dahm said. “We didn’t help ourselves. We didn’t make an adjustment. That’s not a good job on our part.”

Even with Hermsen’s dominance, Iowa was still in the contest until the top of the sixth. Then lightning found its way into the Huskies’ bats.

Northern Illinois exploded for 10 runs, chasing three Hawkeye pitchers before Jeff Pacha could record the last out of the frame.

Iowa second baseman Mike McQuillan admitted the long inning strained the Hawkeyes, but ultimately they needed to find a way to respond against a pitcher he said wasn’t even one of the top hurlers Iowa has faced.

“It’s just part of baseball. People are going to score runs. It’s just what you do about it,” McQuillan said. “You have to have an answer. The team put runs up in the first, and we answered cutting the lead in half.

“Everything is about having an answer. That’s why we trade sides.”

As Dahm stood along the first-base line after the game, he searched for anything that could be a positive for his squad.

“It’s over,” came to mind, but ultimately he settled on the team’s communication after the game.

Dahm said the players seemed sluggish all day and the lack of production didn’t completely surprise him.

But as the Hawkeyes kneeled around their head coach in right field, Dahm said the team was open about addressing their lethargic start and is already looking ahead to their weekend series with Michigan.

“We had no bat speed in practice,” he said. “That’s no reason to go out and play like we did. Our guys have to understand we have a tremendous opportunity here, and that’s when your passion for the game needs to come out.

“I got a little input from the guys, and we’ll put this game behind us.”

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