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Baseball preps for midweek clash with Creighton

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa baseball team will get a taste of the spotlight this evening when it travels to Omaha to take on Creighton.

Not only will the game be televised live on the CBS Sports Network, it will be played in TD Ameritrade Park, the home of the College World Series.

The Black and Gold are 3-2 in midweek games this season, having most recently dropped a 8-6 extra-innings heartbreaker to Western Illinois on April 15.

“The big thing with these midweek games is the energy level and the effort,” head coach Rick Heller said.  “The guys who haven’t pitched dictate so much.  Everyone who didn’t pitch over the weekend will have to come out and throw strikes.”

The Hawkeyes are scheduled to start right-hander Blake Hickman against the Bluejays.

Hickman has a 2-1 record. Although he has one of the best arms on the team, he has struggled to find the strike zone in his last few appearances on the hill for the Hawkeyes.

“We’ve got to throw strikes and work ahead in the count,” Heller said.  “If we do, we’ll have a good chance, but if we don’t, it probably won’t be so pretty. It’s a tough ballpark to score runs in.”

Reaching as far as 408 feet to dead-center field, TD Ameritrade is a lot deeper than the friendly confines of Banks Field.

However, the Hawkeyes bring an offense that has proven itself potent in just about every ballpark the Hawks have played in this season.

What’s more, the Black and Gold have been on fire at the plate recently.

They’ve put up 5 or more runs in six of their last seven contests, including a pair of come-from behind wins against a tough Minnesota pitching rotation last weekend.

Bolstered by their strong performance against the Gophers, the Hawks hope their confidence at the plate will prevail against the Bluejays.

“Anytime you can string a few together and boost your confidence going into your next game, it’s a good thing to do,” sophomore Dan Potempa said.  “Usually, we win in the last three innings, so that will be huge for a ball club like this.”

Potempa’s 3-run blast late in the game helped lift the Black and Gold over Minnesota to give the Hawkeyes their first series win over the Gophers since 2005.

Potempa is part of an Iowa offense that has improved leaps and bounds over where it was at the end of last season.

Going into last game, seven of Iowa’s nine starters were hitting above .300, a huge reason they are second in the Big Ten in hitting.

“We’ve just been putting good swings on the ball when we needed to and just made things happen,” senior Taylor Zeutenhorst said.

And while Iowa owns a winning record against Creighton over the last few seasons, Heller knows the dangers that come with taking any opponents lightly.

“Creighton is a good ball club,” Heller said.  “They play hard every day, and it will be tough, but I think the fact that we’ve seen so many good teams so far benefits us.”


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