Hawkeye baseball struggles defensively in weekend series
The Iowa baseball team sank further toward the cellar of the Big Ten standings after falling to Nebraska in two of three games this past weekend.
The Hawkeyes (11-15, 2-7 Big Ten) haven’t had much success lately, and the reason may lie in the number of errors they’ve committed.
Iowa committed seven errors during the three-game set against the Cornhuskers (13-17, 7-2). The Black and Gold currently hold the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten with 48 errors this season — Penn State leads with 50.
“[Errors] hurt us without a doubt,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “… We’ve got to clean up our defense, without a doubt. We have a chance to be a good defense, but we still have a long ways to go.”
The Hawks have struggled defensively against Big Ten foes primarily, accounting for 21 errors in those matchups.
These mistakes have not gone unnoticed. Nebraska drove in a run off nearly every defensive error the Hawkeyes committed.
In the second game against the Huskers — a game in which the lead went back and forth — the defense looked abysmal. Iowa relinquished its first lead of the game in the second inning after committing two errors.
The Hawkeyes entered the seventh inning tied, but Iowa lost the knot after an error by right fielder Taylor Zeutenhorst. The Black and Gold dropped the second contest, 12-8, a game marred by four errors.
“We gave them some runs. We go out and work hard for runs and then we go make an error,” Dahm said. “It seemed like they scored very easy and that we had to work a lot harder for runs than they did because of our defense.”
Adjusting to the field hasn’t been all that easy for the defense, the head coach said, which may be the reason Iowa has struggled at home. The field was frozen just a week prior to this weekend’s series.
The Black and Gold do have a beacon of hope in its center field with sophomore Eric Toole, who is one of the few Hawkeyes to have yet to commit an error in his 22 appearances.
“He covers so much ground, too,” Dahm said. “He’s developed into an outstanding center fielder, runs a lot of balls down, and gets good reaches on balls, and he’s one of the better center fielders in our conference. His speed is very, very good. He doesn’t have a super strong arm, but he hits the cutoff man every time and understands how to play the position.”
Self-confidence has helped the sophomore defensively.
“Just keep in mind that, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make an error,’ ” Toole said. “I tell myself that I’m just going to get every ball I can and get the ball to the infielders and try not to make an error.”
The last time Iowa finished a contest error-free was Feb. 23, when they defeated New Mexico, 6-2.
“It goes back to the fundamentals,” infielder Jake Yacinich said. “Every rep, it’s quality over quantity. We’re all good enough, and a lot of them are mental mistakes, too. It’s between the ears, and it’s getting better every day.”
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