Iowa baseball plays Indiana this weekend

BY MATT COZZI | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Jarred Hippen has just one win this season.

Not the kind of victory total that is synonymous with a Preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year at this point in the spring.

Hippen, the Hawkeyes’ ace, insists nothing has changed from this year to last, though.

Take one glance at the stat sheet, and he’s right. While Hippen (1-3) does have only one win to his name, the Rock Falls, Ill., native has the team’s third-lowest ERA at 3.38. The junior left-hander also leads all Hawkeye starters in innings pitched with 48.

As Iowa (12-18, 2-4) gets set for its home weekend series against Indiana at Banks Field, Hippen is moving forward despite his win-loss record.

“I’ve pitched just as well this year, but some unfortunate things have happened,” he said. “I haven’t come away with too many wins as I should have … you have to live with it. I’m going to go out [today] and try to get our team a win.”

Hippen has been effective enough to win since the beginning of the Big Ten season. In the two conference games Hippen has pitched in, the 6-3 southpaw has a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings. He also has struck out 11 batters during that time.

Last weekend against Illinois, Hippen got the tough-luck no-decision after throwing seven solid innings. Following his exit, the Hawkeye bullpen gave up the lead and lost the game.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know how much more Jarred needs to do for us,” catcher Tyson Blaser said. “As an offense, we need to go out and give him some more runs. When he throws seven strong innings for us, we should be able to get the win for him.”

The lack of run support has been a common denominator during Hippen’s starts this season. Iowa has averaged 3.8 runs when he is on the hill.

For a top pitcher such as him, every Friday night contest is likely going to be low-scoring. Most Division-I programs throw their ace pitcher on Friday, when a squad’s weekend series begins. Today will be no different — Hippen will square off against Indiana ace Blake Monar.

“I want to go out and be better than [the opposing team’s] No. 1 pitcher,” Hippen said. “That’s the way I view it. It’s me against their No. 1. The run support can get frustrating at times, but it’s a Friday-night game. You have to learn from it.”

The Hoosiers (21-11, 4-2) come to Iowa City tied for second in the Big Ten after back-to-back series wins. Head coach Rusty Smith’s squad also put together an impressive résumé out of conference — Indiana defeated Big South power Coastal Carolina in February and posted wins over Big East foes Connecticut and Pittsburgh.

Additionally, Indiana boasts one of the top offenses in the Big Ten, led by outfielder Alex Dickerson. The Baseball America preseason first-team All-American hit 24 home runs last year as a sophomore. This season, the left-handed hitting Dickerson is batting .374 with four home runs and 30 runs batted in.

Hippen — along with Iowa’s other hurlers — are in for a long weekend if they can’t limit the Hoosiers’ offensive production, which is built around Dickerson. For that reason, Iowa head coach Jack Dahm thinks limiting the other players in the Indiana lineup is perhaps the biggest key.

“Alex Dickerson is probably one of the top five hitters in the country,” Dahm said. “He’s a premier player in the Big Ten. I think containing the guys around Alex Dickerson is most important so he doesn’t beat us.”

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