Baseball creeps up in standings

BY JACOB SHEYKO | APRIL 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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Coming off a series win against Minnesota, Iowa baseball now has sole possession of fifth place in the Big Ten with a 7-8 record. If the season were to end today, Iowa would qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha.

The Hawkeyes’ two wins over the Golden Gophers also made for their 21st and 22nd wins of the season, meaning that they have now won as many games as they did all of last season, and they have 15 games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

With that in mind, it’s a perfect opportunity to look back at how Iowa got to this point. And there’s no better way to do that than by looking at the numbers.

Stolen bases: 58 (tied for 1st in the Big Ten)

Iowa’s first season under Rick Heller has started off with a lot of aggressive base running. With 58 stolen bases this season, Iowa is four swiped bags away from its total last season.

The most impressive part about this surge on the base paths is the amount of success they have had in not getting caught. Iowa has only been caught stealing 17 times this season, giving it a 77.3 success percentage.

Iowa’s speed mainly comes from three players — Eric Toole, Jake Yacinich, and Taylor Zeutenhorst — who have combined for 38 steals in 46 attempts.

Yacinich has 19 steals, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

Home runs: Taylor Zeutenhorst — 7 (1st in the Big Ten)

Alongside having a surge on the base paths, the Hawkeyes under Heller have thrived at the plate as well. Leading the charge is senior Zeutenhorst.

After belting four home runs in Iowa’s nonconference portion of the schedule, Zeutenhorst went on a cold spell, hitting just one home run in Iowa’s first 14 conference games. He broke out of that this past weekend, going deep in back-to-back games against Minnesota — one of the top pitching staffs in the Big Ten.

Iowa is not a team that going to thrive on the deep ball. Even though they rank second in the Big Ten in team home runs, most of their offense relies on stringing hits together. This is why Zeutenhorst is important. With the ability to change the game with one swing, the Sheldon, Iowa, native gives Iowa the chance to win every game.

Innings pitched: Calvin Mathews — 66 (3rd in the Big Ten)

The one glaring weakness in this Iowa team is its bullpen. Because of this, Iowa’s starting pitchers’ ability to eat up innings is crucial; something Mathews has done better than anyone in Iowa’s rotation.

This is important for several reasons. The first is simply to keep the bullpen’s effect on the game at a minimum. The second is to keep the most consistent arms in the bullpen fresh and ready.

Take for instance, Iowa’s April 19 game against Minnesota. Starting pitcher Sasha Kuebel got rocked in the first inning, giving up 4 runs. But Kuebel was able to recover and give Iowa seven innings of work, saving the bullpen for later in the series.

The more the Hawkeyes can ride the arms of Mathews, Kuebel, and Tyler Peyton, the better chance they give themselves of winning.

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