Kuebel finding a groove

BY JACOB SHEYKO | APRIL 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Four hours before each start, Iowa pitcher Sasha Kuebel arrives at Banks Field.

In his eyes, this might be one of the reasons that for each of his starts, the first inning can often be the most difficult one. Sometimes, as he did against Indiana, he gets shelled — he gave up 5 runs on 7 hits in just one-third of an inning. And on other days, as he did over the weekend against South Dakota State, he can be lights out. 

“I get too worked up before the game,” Kuebel said. “I’ve got so much adrenaline pumping, and I’m just ready to get out there.”

Recently, the shutout innings have occurred more often. And that is occurring at the right time; Iowa has 11 games left until the conclusion of the regular season. If the Hawkeyes wish to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll need Kuebel to finish the season strong.

“It’s real crucial. He’s had some quality starts this year. We just need him to keep doing that,” pitcher Tyler Peyton said. “With two starters going down, we need pitchers to step up. It’s pretty crucial.”

Those two injured starters are Peyton and Calvin Mathews. Peyton left his April 20 start versus Minnesota with what at the time was described as a sore lat muscle. Mathew’s injury may be more serious — he left his previous start with shoulder soreness, something he’s had troubles with in the past.

These injuries may place a higher importance on Kuebel in two ways. The first is his ability to take the mound every series. If Kuebel suffered an injury, the Hawks’ chances of finishing the season strong would be seriously hurt, given that their entire starting pitching staff would be out.

The second reason Kuebel is important is his ability to provide consistent starts. With so much inconsistency in who will pitch for Iowa and when, Kuebel’s ability to give Iowa at least seven innings each time he takes the mound will be crucial.

He seems to see this as more of an opportunity rather than pressure.

“There’s no pressure; I felt great,” Kuebel said after his most recent start against South Dakota State — one where he went seven innings and gave up 2 earned runs on just 4 hits. “I was happy to go deeper in the game and save the bullpen a little bit.”

Kuebel’s never going to blow anyone away with his pitches. He relies on off-speed pitches and location. This is evident; hitters are hitting .318 at the plate against Kuebel.

In Iowa head coach Rick Heller’s mind, it doesn’t matter if opponents collect a few hits on Kuebel, the only thing that matters is that he continues this recent stretch of good pitching and keeps Iowa on track to end the season on a good note.

“You don’t really want to think about it that way,” Heller said. “He just has to go out and pitch, and hopefully, he continues to give us a chance to win.”

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