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Hawks looking to avenge Bradley loss

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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The March 26 home loss to Bradley was a tough pill for the Iowa baseball team to swallow.

Battling the elements and a starting pitcher who was dialed in from the first inning, the Hawkeyes failed to produce a single run all game for the first time this season. 

“That game has really bothered us a little bit,” pitcher Tyler Peyton said.  “We hadn’t really suffered a loss like that up until that point.”

Luckily for Peyton and his teammates, the Hawkeyes will get another shot against Bradley when they travel to Peoria this evening.

“We all just want to come out and show them and ourselves that what happened last time was a fluke,” Peyton said. “We can play, and we want to show everyone what out true potential is.”

The Hawks dropped two of three to Michigan the weekend after the Bradley loss, but they were in all three games against an opponent that has played some of the top teams in the country this year.
Head coach Rick Heller ready for his squad to start playing again after the two losses.

“We’re looking forward to playing again, especially after the weekend and how it ended,” he said.  “To get back on the field is going to be a good thing for us and should be a good challenge.”

And, if all goes according to plan, the weather conditions in Peoria should be much more conducive to baseball than the snow and 40 mph winds both teams experienced last week in Iowa City. 

“That weather is a huge factor,” Heller said.  “The stuff we played in last time, Mark McGwire couldn’t have hit in that weather.  That’s the kind of stuff you run into in those types of games.”

Juco transfers leading the way

When Heller joined the Iowa baseball program as head coach in July 2013, he immediately went to work collecting the names of every possible junior-college player in the area and set out to try to turn them into Hawkeyes.

Now, just three weeks into Iowa’s Big Ten schedule, two of those transfers are beginning to pay off some serious dividends for the Black and Gold.

Junior Dan Potempa and sophomore Peyton are both in their first year with the Hawks after starting out their careers as junior-college students.

And while the transition may sound tough to some, both Potempa and Peyton have been red-hot since making the leap to Division-I this season. Potempa leads the Big Ten in batting average, hitting a staggering .408 after 22 games.

Peyton isn’t far behind him.  The first basemen and Sunday starting pitcher is clicking along hitting .388, good enough for third in the conference.

“The biggest difference I’ve noticed between juco and here is that the pitchers can locate all their pitches really well,” Potempa said.  “When they need to throw that curve ball for a strike, they’re definitely able to locate exactly where they want to put it.”

The two have led by example in the batter’s box since they started preseason play in February.  Potempa is tied for third on the team with 13 RBIs, and he and Peyton are first and second in team slugging.

And even with excellent coaching, confidence at the plate is still their biggest asset.

“Confidence is everything,” Peyton said.  “If you get down against quality opponents like the ones we’ve been facing, it can only go downhill form there, so it’s probably the No. 1 thing we need to all maintain.”


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