Iowa baseball looking for midweek relief

BY BEN SCHUFF | MAY 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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Maybe a new opponent will give the Iowa baseball team a better recipe for success today.

The team's last two midweek games were both against Bradley, on April 18 and April 24. The Hawkeyes lost both games by the same score, 7-3.

Today, the opponent changes to Wisconsin-Milwaukee when the teams take Banks Field at 6:05 p.m.

"We have to do a better job — we haven't played very well in the middle of the week," manager Jack Dahm said. "We've just kind of showed up and played. We need to compete, to make it a habit [of competing]."

The Hawkeyes were competitive in their first five midweek contests, going 4-1 from March 21 to April 10. Since then, Iowa has seemed to lack a competitive edge in the two losses to Bradley.

"We were just flat," Dahm said of the team's last two midweek games. "… We had that bye weekend and had all that rain — that really hurt us."

The recent deflation of the Bubble means the team has been somewhat limited on days that it rains. While Dahm said he didn't want to use bad weather as an excuse, the Hawkeyes have had days where full practices aren't a possibility — and they have carried over into games.

"I literally went back and showed our guys our energy level before that in the dugout, on the field. We got really sluggish because we only played one game in a week," Dahm said. "We couldn't practice because it rained out, so we couldn't get on the field, we couldn't get in our cages. That really set us back, and we got sluggish."

Coming out ready to play from the first pitch has been a mantra mentioned by a handful of Hawkeyes this season. Catcher Dan Sheppard echoed the sentiment again when asked what the key to beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be tonight.

"We have to do a better job of coming out ready to play right away," he said. "When you're mentally ready, you're going to play better physically. We need to stick with the process of coming to the field mentally ready to play, and the physical part will take care of itself."

The Hawkeye bats were relatively quiet in the two losses to Bradley, mustering a total of 6 runs. Freshman shortstop Jake Yacinich said he thinks Iowa's approach at the plate improved in last weekend's Big Ten series in Minneapolis, even though the team dropped two of three to the Golden Gophers.

"Earlier in the season, we had good approaches; we got back to that this weekend," Yacinich said. "If we stay focused pitch-to-pitch in the dugout, on the field, that's the key to our success. We just need to get back to that."

Tonight's starting pitcher for the Hawkeyes, Andrew Hedrick, started both games against the Braves. The left-hander threw a total of 6 innings in those two starts, yielding 8 runs.

Dahm said Hedrick will go "as long as he can" tonight after he was limited in his last home start. Dahm and the coaching staff had been limiting Hedrick over the past couple midweek starts so that he could potentially pitch out of the bullpen if needed during weekend Big Ten games.

But Dahm said the team has gotten quality starts from weekend pitchers Jarred Hippen, Matt Dermody, and Sasha Kuebel, so saving Hedrick isn't as much of a necessity.

"We're going to try to extend him out and see what we can get from him," the ninth-year Iowa manager said. "We'll let him go as long as he can."

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