Iowa baseball displaying lack of passion

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

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The Iowa baseball team will need more than runs, pitching, and defense to be successful this weekend, when the Hawkeyes will travel to Indiana.

Manager Jack Dahm spent nearly 10 minutes huddled in right field with his team following Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Nebraska-Omaha. The ninth-year coach could be heard from near the end of the bleachers on the first-base side of Banks Field shouting at his players about several things, including a lack of "passion."

Freshman outfielder Ryan Rumpf said Dahm's message was to "Do a better job — at everything. We just have to do a better job of executing."

Dahm spoke after the game how frustrating the team's lack of consistency has been this season. Iowa has yet to win more than two games in a row.

"Some guys need to step up their game, and do it consistently. We're seeing it in spurts from guys — we need to put it all together," Dahm said. "I told our guys I don't even know what the heck kind of lineup we can put out there right now, because we see good effort [and] good approach one day, and then we don't see it for three or four days."

The consistency needs to meld with an increase in passion on the field, he said.

"It's almost like something good happens, and then we get back on our heels instead of just continuing to plow forward," Dahm said. "To me, that's a passion for being a championship-type team … In the game of baseball, you're not going to get it done every time, but it's the approach you need to have, the mentality you need to have."

The Hawkeyes have lost eight of their previous nine meetings with Indiana, and the last time Iowa won a series was in 2008 by taking three of four in Bloomington, Ind.

While the Hoosiers no longer have the services of slugger Alex Dickerson — he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in last June's Major League Baseball draft and won the Big Ten's triple crown in 2010 — Indiana's offense still boasts some of the conference's better bats.

First baseman Sam Travis owns one of the top batting averages in the Big Ten at .385, and he is second in the league with 10 doubles. Catcher and outfielder Kyle Schwarber is tied for Big Ten lead with four triples.

Considering much Iowa's offense struggled on Wednesday, though, the Hawkeyes' greatest problem may be facing them from the mound.

Joey DeNato dominated Iowa last season, throwing eight shutout innings while tying a school record for strikeouts in a Big Ten game with 11.

This season, the Hoosier left-hander has accumulated a 4-1 record while holding opponents to a paltry .210 batting average. His 1.62 ERA is third-best in the conference.

"Our bullpen has been stretched a little bit … [DeNato] gives us a chance to rest our bullpen," Indiana head coach Tracy Smith said in an interview with collegebaseballdaily.com after his ace threw a 3-hit complete game on March 16. "He always gives us a chance to win."

Dahm will counter with a left-handed ace of his own in Jarred Hippen (2-2, 3.02 ERA). The senior threw a complete game in his last start, March 23 against Northwestern.

Iowa southpaw Matt Dermody (0-3, 5.40) will face freshman lefty Kyle Hart (1-1, 3.19) on Saturday; Indiana hasn't announced who will face Hawkeye freshman Sasha Kuebel (2-0, 2.15) in the third game of the series on April 1.

Follow DI baseball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.

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