Iowa baseball sees senior pitching renaissance

BY TOMMY REINKING | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Jack Dahm didn’t have a large presence of upperclassmen on his roster heading into his 10th season as head coach of the Iowa baseball team. Of the 16 pitchers on the staff, only four were seniors.

Of those four, only two had ever had an ERA below 5.40 in their careers at Iowa before this season. Yet unexpectedly, Dahm was often able to turn to their experience as the group became the anchor for an otherwise young pitching staff.

“Their attitudes have been outstanding,” Dahm said. “They really get after it. There was a sense of determination from them. They want to do anything they can to help the team win. You love having players like that.”

Matt Dermody and Ricky Sandquist have been Hawkeyes for four years, but Ben Bergman spent a year at Kirkwood before transferring to Iowa, and Andrew Hanse spent two years at Ellsworth Community College before joining the Black and Gold.

Prior to this season, the four pitchers had a combined 5.84 ERA for Iowa. This year, however, the quartet has vastly improved to post a solid 3.67 ERA.

Three of the four have set career marks in innings pitched, and Dermody needs to retire just two more batters to surpass his season-best mark. The group has also been dominant in regards to their strikeout-to-walk ratio, collecting 127 Ks on the year to only 59 walks.

“Our main thing we bring is experience,” Dermody said. “Ricky and I have been pitching since freshman year, and I think that experience has caught up to us. We’ve been able to harness that experience and get something out of it.”

The biggest success story to come out of the senior hurlers this year was Sandquist’s. Coming into the 2013 campaign, the Fort Dodge native had an ERA of 8.91 with 39 walks and 31 strikeouts.

Sandquist made some adjustments to his delivery, switching from a more standard technique to throwing sidearm, and practically became a new pitcher.

His season ERA sits at 2.23, the best on the team, and he has compiled 29 strikeouts, which is nearly how many he got in his first three seasons combined as a Hawkeye.

“We’ve all just put it on the line,” Sandquist said. “We wanted to have one good last year. We all just go out there without any nerves and try to have fun. That’s been the biggest difference for most of us.”

The team’s season hasn’t worked out the way the players might have hoped, though. After Sunday’s loss to Michigan State dropped the Hawkeyes to 7-14 in conference play —19-27 overall — Iowa was eliminated from contention for a seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

Dahm acknowledged that he would have preferred that things had gone better but said the squad would likely have been worse off without the strong performances of those senior pitchers.

“If you’re going to have a really good team, you need to have your seniors have good years,” he said. “They need to play well. I don’t know where we’d be without those seniors this year.”

Sitting in ninth place out of 11 teams in the Big Ten standings isn’t where the team wanted to be, but Dahm said the seniors can be proud of what they personally accomplished this year.

“They wanted to go out on top,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not going to make that Big Ten Tournament, but those guys had very, very good years for us.”

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