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Iowa baseball vies for more Big Ten wins as season's end approaches

BY TOMMY REINKING | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Big Ten baseball landscape is a mess right now.

Indiana, the team heavily favored to win the conference (which went on an 18-game winning streak earlier in the season), is in third place after losing four of its last five. Minnesota, the team picked by the Big Ten coaches to finish fifth in preseason voting, sits atop the standings after winning or sweeping its first three series against Big Ten opponents.

Only the top six teams make the Big Ten Tournament at the end of the season. The difference between first place and seventh place is a mere two games.

“The Big Ten’s a little crazy this year,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “You’ve got teams that are sweeping one weekend, then getting swept the next weekend. Two or three years ago, there was one sweep the entire season. Now, it’s happening every weekend. Now, it’s our turn.”

The Hawkeyes are near the bottom of the conference, 10th place out of 11 teams. The Hawkeyes are only three games out of the coveted sixth place, though, and they will face the only Big Ten school with a worse record than them this weekend — Penn State in University Park, Pa.

“[Winning games against Big Ten opponents] is the key to the season,” Dahm said. “It’s important. Penn State has been struggling a little bit. We definitely need to go out there, try to win that series, and get ourselves on a little bit of a roll.”

Penn State hasn’t won a Big Ten game in nine tries this year, and has an overall record of 8-24. Before winning three of its last six games, the Nittany Lions went on a streak of 13 losses in a row. The team has been outscored in Big Ten games by a 56-20 margin.

The Black and Gold haven’t fared much better in its Big Ten games this season, however. The squad is 2-7 with their only wins coming against Nebraska on April 7 and Northwestern on March 23. Both wins were by 1 run.

Even though the team will play a Nittany-Lion squad that has been struggling, players say they won’t treat the games any differently than if they were playing a top-tier opponent.

“We’re taught to stay even-keeled,” senior pitcher Ricky Sandquist said. “We keep our opponents faceless. It’s more about us. If we take care of business and play the way we’re capable of, the results take care of themselves.”

In 19 nonconference games, Iowa outscored opponents by a 93-82 margin, but in Big Ten games, the Hawks have been outscored 68 to 38 this season.

Recently, the team has inched closer to putting the complete games together that are necessary for winning. The pitching staff recorded its first shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over Nebraska-Omaha on April 16. The defense also went error-free twice in the last four games.

“We just have to put all the pieces together,” senior pitcher Matt Dermody said. “If we pitch really well and hit really well in the same game, we’ll do fine.”


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