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Baseball Report Card: Baseball displays great improvement

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sitting pretty at 25-15 with close to a month left to play in the season, the Iowa baseball team has eclipsed its victory total from the 2013 season.

With the team in the middle of resurgence under the tutelage of first-year head coach Rick Heller, it has seen an improvement in just about every single category.

Offense: A-

Given where this team sat at the end of last season, the turnaround at the plate is nothing short of astounding.

A team that finished close to dead last in basically every single offensive category last season has turned it around this season.

The Black and Gold have nine men on the roster hitting above .300, including seven hitting at least .320.

Not to mention that the Hawks are second in the Big Ten in batting average, slugging percentage, and runs scored, as well as first in on-base percentage and stolen bases.

Junior-college transfers Dan Potempa and Tyler Peyton have enjoyed breakout years, and senior Taylor Zeutenhorst has homered in four of his last six games.

Iowa has relied heavily on its offensive power at the plate this season, and while it has been relatively sustainable, the occasional lack of two-out hitting, especially with runners in scoring position, prevents it from getting a full A.

Defense:  B-

In second-basemen Jake Mangler and shortstop Jake Yacinich, the Hawkeyes possess one of the toughest middle infields in the Big Ten.

In almost every home game this year, Yacinich and Mangler have made incredible diving stops, snuffing out would-be hits and turning them into big outs for the Hawkeyes.

The Black and Gold are fifth in the conference in hits allowed and fourth in fielding percentage — no doubt a direct benefit of the duo’s dominance on the field.

However, as dominant as Yacinich and Mangler have been, the rest of Heller’s squad has been a little late to the party.

The Hawks rank just seventh in runs allowed, giving up a very middling 205.  They are also in the top half of the table in runners picked off and errors.

Pitching:  B+

This is a tough one to nail down.

On paper, the Iowa pitching staff has not had a great year at all, ranking third in earned runs, fifth in walks, and first in home runs allowed with 20.

However Iowa’s starting rotation has been wracked by injuries several times this season, forcing Heller to rely heavily on his bullpen to carry the bulk of the workload.

Converted catcher Blake Hickman has impressed the Iowa coaching staff with his progress on the mound, especially in relief of injured starter Calvin Matthews, while Sasha Kuebel and Peyton have both given consistent performances when healthy this year.

All things considered, Iowa’s pitchers have, more often than not, put the Hawks in a position to win nearly every single game.


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