Confidence key as Iowa baseball preps for Kansas State


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The Iowa baseball team is off to its best start since 1940. 

Winners of six straight, the Hawkeyes have gained confidence with each victory, something they will lean on this weekend when they face their toughest hurdle to date: a three-game series with Kansas State.

“The confidence is definitely there,” junior Eric Toole said. “Honestly, I think it’s been there all season.  Once the new coaching staff got here, I think we felt like we could be a better team, and we’ve worked to maintain that so far.”

The Black and Gold have good reason to be confident. New head coach Rick Heller and his staff have built a winning mentality since taking over in July 2013, and, at 9-1, it’s paid off in spades so far this season.

“It took some time, but I think it’s been growing since the fall,” Heller said. “I think the best thing that could have happened to us is to have gone out and gotten off to a hot start like we have, because it really re-enforced a lot of the things we’d been talking about.”

However the Hawkeyes will need more than confidence going into this weekend.

A three-game series with a Big 12 school such as Kansas State should prove to be a useful litmus test for the Hawks, whose competition to date has featured mostly smaller schools and an invitational-style game format.

How Iowa plays this weekend should be a decent first indicator of what to expect out of the Hawkeyes once conference play begins near the end of March.

“It should be a true test of what a normal Big Ten weekend will look like, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform,” Heller said.

And while the Wildcats aren’t exactly tearing it up this season (they are dead last in the Big 12 at 4-7), they still present Iowa with its biggest challenge to date.

The Hawks are staying focused on themselves in preparation, something that has been somewhat of a mantra for the team in 2014.

“It’s a big weekend, obviously, but like we said, we just have to worry about ourselves,” junior Jake Yacinich said. “It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing; all that matters is that we take care of our business every game.”

And take care of business they have. Through their first 10 games, the Hawks lead the Big Ten in just about every category imaginable, including batting average (.308), slugging percentage  (.431), total runs (90), and home runs (6).

The Hawkeyes have also received solid starts from their three-man starting rotation. Sophomore Calvin Matthews, junior Sasha Keubel, and sophomore Tyler Peyton have been fairly dominant so far.

“We’ve really worked on just getting rid of the freebees, so to speak,” Heller said.  “Working on getting rid of the walks and the hit–by-pitches, errors, and all those things that get you beat.

“When you’re not giving things away, you improve your chances. Most baseball games are lost, not won.”

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