Hawkeye baseball seeks rare win at Nebraska

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Recent history says this weekend in Lincoln, Neb., could be a rough one for the Iowa baseball team.

Iowa has visited the Cornhuskers five times since Jack Dahm took over as Iowa's coach in 2004. The Hawkeyes lost all five meetings.

Dahm said he thinks this time will be different, though.

The upcoming three-game series marks the first time Iowa (12-14, 3-3 Big Ten) and Nebraska (20-11, 3-3) will play each other as Big Ten foes, meaning a weekend series of the teams' top pitchers is in store. The previous meetings were single, midweek games, which normally pair teams' No. 4 or 5 starters.

"They haven't seen our frontline guys," Dahm said. "They haven't seen [Jarred] Hippen, [Matt] Dermody, they haven't seen [Nick] Brown, so we're excited to go over there."

Dermody actually has faced Nebraska before; he started a Tuesday game in April 2010 played at Banks Field. Dermody, then a freshman, helped the Hawkeyes to their only win over Nebraska during Dahm's tenure. He threw 5 1/3 innings and yielded 2 runs that day as one of Iowa's back-of-the-rotation arms.

A lot has changed since that meeting, and Dermody is now one of Iowa's top starting pitchers and is scheduled to start the second game of the series on Saturday.

But he said his plan will still be the same: "Pound the strike zone."

Dermody said the series will be a measuring stick of sorts for the Hawkeyes, because Nebraska owns the Big Ten's third-best overall record. Iowa's 12-14 overall mark is good for seventh in the conference.

"I think we should be fine," Dermody said. "If we play to our capabilities, we'll definitely be fine."

That's a big "if" for a Hawkeye team that has struggled with consistency throughout the year. It was something Dahm referred to following the team's 11-4 win over South Dakota State on Wednesday.

Iowa has won two games in a row on two occasions this year. The team lost its next game both times.

When asked if he would say something to his players about the lack of consistency before the weekend's games with Nebraska, Dahm said, "I already did after the game. I talked about, 'Hey, we got to keep moving forward.'

"Sometimes, we start to feel good, and then we fall back on our face. We need to continue to get better every day."

The Hawkeye coach said Thursday would be a big day both in terms of preparation for Nebraska and to keep his own team's momentum going.

The Cornhuskers — who are coached by former major-league player and Nebraska alumnus Darin Erstad — are an offensive powerhouse who have scored 10 or more runs in a Big Ten-best nine games. Nebraska also leads the conference in 10 statistical categories, including on-base and slugging percentage, RBIs, and home runs.

Nebraska is 12-5 at home this year in Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, which Dahm called "one of the premier facilities in the country." The park's capacity of 8,500 creates a great environment, Dahm said, and that environment was one of the first things senior Phil Keppler brought up when asked about Nebraska.

"It's going to be fun; I know they get a lot of fans," Keppler said. "We're looking forward to the series."

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