Iowa baseball tries to improve mid-week play

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa manager Jack Dahm acknowledged on Tuesday his baseball team had "a lot" of questions entering the season.

Two of those questions will get their first answers today when the Hawkeyes (6-10) host the Grand View Vikings (10-16): How will Iowa fare at home and in midweek games this season?

Dahm addressed both those issues at the team's media day on Feb. 9. Iowa struggled to a 20-32 record last year, including a 7-13 mark at home and a 2-6 record in midweek contests.

"Our biggest thing is, hopefully, in those midweek games after we get back from spring break, the depth of our pitching can be a big benefit if we stay healthy," Dahm said on media day.

The pitching staff has avoided injury through the first month. That was something it couldn't do last year, as current senior Nick Brown and then-seniors Zach Kenyon and Kevin Lee all missed time because of various ailments.

"It was kind of fluky where we had so many guys who just couldn't pitch and didn't feel comfortable," reliever Tim Fangman said about last season. "Midweek games kind of depleted our pitching staff."

The lack of pitching depth was one reason Dahm cited during media day for the team's losing record in midweek games last season. Iowa posted a 6-3 midweek mark in 2010.

On Tuesday, he elaborated on how much a healthy pitching staff could help improve this year's Hawkeye team.

"It's something we've talked about as coaches. Last year, part of it was injuries on the pitching staff, so we weren't quite as good on the mound as maybe we thought we were going to be," the ninth-year Hawkeye manager said. "The bottom line is, we struggled at home last year."

Freshman Andrew Hedrick will lead the Hawkeyes on the mound in their effort to win the team's first midweek game of the year. The left-hander took a no-decision in his first college start, on March 13 against Bucknell; he allowed 3 runs in 4 innings of work while striking out 5 Bison batters.

"It felt pretty good," Hedrick said. "I just have to keep the ball down. I left the ball up a couple times [against Bucknell], and it got smashed."

Four Hawkeye relievers came in to pitch five innings after Hedrick left because of a high pitch count. Andrew Hanse, Patrick Lala, Taylor Kaufman, and Brown gave up a combined 3 runs to Bucknell, securing an 8-6 Iowa victory.

Iowa will need more of those combined pitching performances to win midweek games this season.

"This year, we just have such a good pitching staff and so many arms — [in] midweek games, we're going to have a guy out there that could easily throw on the weekends for us," Fangman said. "So from that perspective, I think it's going to be a lot different this year."

Follow DI baseball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.

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