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Notebook: Iowa baseball gets lift from pitcher Brown

BY MATT COZZI | FEBRUARY 10, 2012 7:20 AM

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Iowa pitcher Nick Brown thought he was suffering from just another injury, so he iced his elbow and rested his arm.

But the pain persisted. Finally, a diagnosis came through.

The senior missed nearly all of last season because of a stress reaction — created by bone-on-bone contact — in his right elbow. He made just seven appearances for the Hawkeyes, who finished 20-32 overall, 9-15 in the Big Ten.

"It was hard to figure out for the longest time," Brown said at the Iowa baseball team's media day on Thursday. "The bone in my elbow got really weak and started to break down. I thought it was a ligament or tendon. I just iced, and about midweek it would go away. Then Friday and Saturday, it would come up again."

Becuse of the unusual nature of the injury, Brown said he visited three or four doctors over a span of a few months.

His levels of frustration and disappointment rose while he sat out, but he had no choice. The 6-3, 250-pound right-hander needed to recover fully before even thinking about throwing a baseball again.

He is healthy now, and he said he's in the best shape of his college career.

"There were a lot of doctor's appointments, a lot of visits, and a lot of different people along the way," he said. "[The injury] might have been overlooked [by some people]."

Brown has bounced around a bit while at Iowa, even appearing as a designated hitter during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He had settled into the starting rotation before the injury last year.

Head coach Jack Dahm said Brown would likely either be the setup man or closer this spring.
"It's the last season for me, so [the injury is] the last thing I want to be worried about," Brown said. "I just need to push through that and have a great season."

No cupcakes for Hawkeyes

Iowa will open its season next weekend at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Hawkeyes will face Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and West Virginia.

Iowa will play in more tournaments the following two weekends. Most notably, Dahm's squad will play Coastal Carolina on Feb. 24; the school has won 40 or more games each of the last two seasons.

So the Hawkeyes won't only play their first 16 games away from Iowa City; they'll do so against some of the top programs in the country.

"It's a very challenging schedule for us, but I think it's manageable," Dahm said. "We want to play much better early on. We want to get off to a good start before spring break and hopefully, come back after those first three tournaments with some wins."

Brotherly love

Dahm will likely start freshman Eric Toole in left field and have the 18-year-old bat in the leadoff spot.

Toole's older brother, Justin, made his mark on the Hawkeye baseball program from 2006-08; he set a school record with a 25-game hitting streak and finished with a career .366 batting average. He now plays in the Cleveland Indians' organization.

That made Eric Toole's college decision easier.

"When Justin was here, I would come and see some of his games and got used to the system and talked to the coaches a lot," he said. "As the recruiting process moved along, he told me what I should expect and what I need to look for … It's played out well overall, and it's been going good so far."

Follow DI baseball reporter Matt Cozzi on Twitter.


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