Fangman excels in relief role for Iowa baseball

BY MATT COZZI | MAY 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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With a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the eighth inning, Penn State was ready to capitalize on its 1-0 advantage on Sunday afternoon.

For the umpteenth time, it appeared the Iowa baseball team was again going to waste a fantastic performance by one of its starting pitchers because of a lack of offensive support.

Enter relief pitcher Tim Fangman.

The junior promptly gave up a single to put two runners on base, but he remained composed and retired the next three batters on just seven pitches. Fangman pitched the final three innings in the contest, scattering two hits and striking out two.

Following his performance against Penn State, the North Liberty native has a 2.96 ERA in a team-high 21 appearances, and he has been Iowa's most reliable reliever.

"It's a lot of fun," Fangman said. "Every day, you know you have a chance to pitch. I've gotten to a point where situations like [Sunday's] are no different from pitching with the bases empty. I try to stay focused every pitch, throw strikes, and get some outs."

Fangman's appearance on Sunday gave him his first win of the season. The West High product has pitched almost exclusively in middle to late relief. Against Penn State, Fangman's combination of fastballs and sinkers stymied Nittany Lion hitters.

The Black Hawk Community College transfer retired the side in order in the ninth and 10th innings, then the Hawkeyes won the game in the bottom of the 10th.

"[Fangman] fills up the strike zone and forces the other team to swing the bat," pitching coach Chris Maliszewski said. "Typically, he's going to get a lot of ground balls; he's a sinker-ball pitcher. He's been a huge asset for us this year, he eats innings and allows the defense to do the work for him."

Since Patrick Lala assumed the third spot in the rotation around a month ago, the Hawkeyes' bullpen has continued to be effective and Fangman has led that effort.

In Big Ten play, Fangman has struck out 17 with just one walk in 201⁄3 innings. Opponents are batting a minuscule .203 against him.

"One of the things you preach as a coach is if you work hard, you deserve to have success," head coach Jack Dahm said. "When you look at Tim Fangman, he has really committed himself. It's amazing what happens when you're prepared and you got some ability. He goes out there with a lot of confidence and makes quality pitches."

Looking ahead, Fangman's repertoire of pitches might make him the leading candidate for the closer's role in 2012. Maliszewski noted he can also see Fangman as a starter, but it depends on how other pitchers develop.

For now, though, Fangman will remain in the middle-relief role as the Hawkeyes seek a berth in the Big Ten Tournament later this month.

"[Fangman] has been tremendous in crucial situations," Maliszewski said. "Almost always, we know he's going to hold the lead or keep the deficit where it's at to allow our offense to get back in the game. He's so invaluable in the middle innings."

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