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Iowa baseball looks to take down Big Ten leader Minnesota

BY JALYN SOUCHEK | APRIL 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s safe to say the Iowa baseball team is not in the position the Hawks would like to be in Big Ten standings.

In recent weeks, the Hawkeyes dropped to 10th in the conference, with the Big Ten Tournament less than a month away. The Hawkeyes are 3-9 in conference play.

It’s also safe to say that the team understands the gravity of this weekend’s series against Big Ten leader Minnesota. The Gophers are only four wins ahead of Iowa at 7-2 in the Big Ten, 24-13 overall.

“There’s a lot on the line right now. Obviously, our Big Ten record isn’t as good as we had hoped at this point in the season,” sophomore pitcher Taylor Kaufman said. “We dug ourselves into a hole. Starting this weekend, we’re going to have to start climbing back out.”

If Iowa has any hopes of making it to the tournament, it will have to begin with a win over Minnesota. Only the top six teams make it to the tournament at the end of the season.

“It’s going to be three close ball games,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said. “They’ve got great pitching, they play good defense, and they’re struggling from an offensive standpoint right now. If we can execute from an offensive standpoint, what it’s going to come down to is who makes the plays and who comes up with the timely hit.”

The Hawkeyes haven’t been able to win back-to-back games since March 10 and have yet to not only sweep a series, but win one.

The series against the Maroon and Gold will begin Friday with the first pitch being thrown at 6:05 p.m. at Banks Field. It will wrap up on April 28.

The Black and Gold didn’t have an ideal outing last weekend against Penn State. There, they gave the Nittany Lions their first two conference wins of the season.

Penn State sits in last place in the Big Ten, behind Iowa.

But Iowa is coming off a midweek win against Northern Illinois, which it hopes will boost morale going into this weekend. Dahm said they needed to have a positive feeling and the win helped accomplish that.

“It’s going to have a really nice mentality shift for us coming off a tough weekend against Penn State,” Kaufman said. “That should give us a nice boost going into the weekend, and hopefully, we can play as well as we did [against Northern Illinois].”

The squad was able to take to their field Thursday for practice for just the third time this season. Mother Nature has kept them inside the football practice facility for most practices.

“We’ll be able to get some groundballs and hit on the field,” Dahm said. “It might seem like a small thing, but we just haven’t been able to practice. It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to get a workout outside.”

This weekend will begin the last of Iowa’s opportunities to jump ahead in the Big Ten standings. Following Minnesota, the Hawkeyes will take on Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue — each in a three-game series.

“We have to win the series,” center fielder Eric Toole said. “It would be a huge momentum because Minnesota is up there at the top, and we’re kind of down there at the bottom. We know what we can do. We can challenge Minnesota, and we can beat them.”


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