Iowa baseball squares off against Coe today

BY MATT COZZI | APRIL 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Following a 19-run offensive onslaught against Michigan State on Sunday, the Iowa baseball team will attempt to avoid a letdown today against Coe College.

Despite the win on Sunday, the Hawkeyes lost their opening Big Ten series last weekend, dropping two out of three games against the Spartans. Today, Iowa (10-15, 1-2) will try to win its second-straight contest when head coach Jack Dahm’s squad takes on Coe at 6 p.m. in the friendly confines of Banks Field.

Coe (13-4, 6-2), a Division-III program from Cedar Rapids, comes to Iowa City having won three of its last four games. The Kohawks have played Iowa the past three seasons, losing all three games. Last spring, Iowa defeated Coe, 16-6.

Senior catcher Tyson Blaser said today’s game is just as important as any other midweek game, even if Coe isn’t a Division-I opponent.

“It’s more about us than whom we play,” he said. “We want to focus on some of things we did last weekend and carry that over to [today]. We can’t lose focus. We have to keep doing what we’re doing so we can have some momentum going into Illinois this weekend.”

The nonconference game serves as an opportunity for both schools, despite Coe being an overwhelming underdog. Coe gets to play better competition than it usually does, and Iowa can give players who usually don’t start some playing time.

The Kohawks won 25 games last season, good enough for third-most in school history. Additionally, their record sits at 6-2 in Iowa Intercollegiate Conference play. Coe heads into Wednesday night’s game hitting .370 as a team, and it has a 4.17 team ERA.

“Getting a chance to play the Division-I big brother down the road is a great opportunity for our kids,” Kohawk head coach Steve Cook said. “Our players will be able to see and play against great competition. Anytime we can get our kids around that kind of an environment, it makes our players better.”

Cook, who has the most coaching wins in Coe baseball history, 279, said Iowa’s depth is going to be biggest challenge his team will have to overcome.

Even in a midweek game such as today’s, Cook said, the Kohawks’ overall roster doesn’t even compare with the Hawkeyes. Because the Division-III squad played its last five games in five days, including a double-header Tuesday, Cook said he plans on starting some younger players.

“A Division-I program is always going to run deeper, and we’ll never be able to overmatch Iowa,” he said. “We’re going to have to go with some less-experienced guys, but at the same time, our mindset doesn’t change. We’re going to compete as best we can and give ourselves a chance.”

Heading into today’s ball game, Hawkeye outfielder Chett Zeise, who has hit the team’s only home run this season, leads the squad in hitting with a .317 average. Right-hander Ricky Sandquist, today’s likely starter, gave up just five hits and two runs in 61⁄3 innings on March 29 against South Dakota State.

For Iowa, Sunday’s offensive explosion — the Hawkeyes recorded a season-high in both runs and hits — can be used as a springboard for today and upcoming Big Ten games.

“[Sunday’s win] was big for us,” senior Zach McCool said. “Everyone in our lineup is hitting a little bit better; we’ve played good defense. When you get the whole team going together, both pitching and hitting, good things happen.”

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