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Redemption for Keubel in comeback win for Iowa

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Two days ago, junior Brandon Shulista was brought in in the first inning to replace starting pitcher Sasha Kuebel against Indiana.

Kuebel was down 5-0 in the first inning after struggling to find the strike zone and throwing 23 pitches. The Hoosiers pounced on the opportunity, and Kuebel was pulled before he could retire a second batter.

Flash forward to Tuesday night; Kuebel was in a similar situation, and he had a chance to redeem himself against Kansas.

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“Last weekend definitely hurt a little bit, but I think failure is good motivation, so I took that out with me today,” Kuebel said. 

Starter Blake Hickman was yanked in the third inning after failing to locate the strike zone and walking 5. Despite not giving up a single hit, Hickman was all over the place with his pitches, tossing nearly 60 in 2.1 innings.

Head coach Rick Heller decided to give Kuebel another shot in relief.

“I knew I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen this time,” he said. “I was really happy to give us a chance to win.”  

Early on, it looked like Kuebel might be in for more of the same.

Ripping back-to-back singles, the Jayhawks were able to drive in the two runners left over from Hickman.

Once again, Kuebel was down by a pair of runs with only one out.

But that’s where the similarities ended.  He escaped the jam, and responded by retiring the next seven Kansas batters.

“A lot of guys would have folded after giving up two hits right off the bat like that, but Sasha didn’t,” Heller said. “He just kept pounding the strike zone and giving us a chance.”

He finished the night with 6 strikeouts and 8 hits over 5.2 innings.

Kuebel put the team on his back, and the Hawkeyes rewarded him with an offensive outburst the likes of which Heller and Company had not seen in nearly two weeks.

After loading the bases in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore Dan Potempa crushed a two-out, bases-clearing double off of the left-field wall.   

After driving in Potempa, Iowa left the fifth with a 4-2 lead. And while Kansas mounted a spirited comeback in the seventh, it was all for naught, and the Hawkeyes closed it out for a 5-3 win.

“Sasha is a guy that if you give him run support, he’s going to give you a great outing,” Potempa said. “We just really stuck to our at-bat routine and started driving the ball to the opposite field.”

The victory snapped a three-game losing skid for the Black and Gold.

Kuebel earned his third win of the season, but more importantly, he won back his confidence.

“I would say that this is probably the highlight of the year so far,” he said.


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