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Injuries fail to slow Hawkeyes

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MAY 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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When you look at how far the Iowa baseball team has come in just one season, you can’t help but marvel at the strides the team has made.

Coming off a disappointing 2013 season that saw the Hawkeyes win just 22 games, the team and first-year head coach Rick Heller have eclipsed last year’s victory total with nearly three weeks left to play.

And with a chance to improve their record in Big Ten play this weekend against Ohio State, Iowa has its first legitimate chance at making the Big Ten Tournament since 2010.

While the Hawks’ turnaround is impressive, that it took place in a season in which so many key pieces went down with injuries makes it all the more amazing.

For Heller, a veteran coach with more than a decade of experience, injuries are part of the game and something he’s come to expect.

“You try to prepare for it in the fall and winter and think ahead so guys aren’t totally shocked when you throw them in a new spot,” he said. “We just try to think of it as part of the game. It’s going to happen, and every team has to try to deal with it.”

A pitching staff that looked relatively deep at the beginning of the year came out of preseason cut down significantly, losing nearly a half-dozen different arms to a slew of different ailments.

Last weekend against South Dakota State was a perfect example of the resiliency and maturity of Iowa’s bullpen.

Normal Sunday starter Tyler Peyton was unable to take the mound, and with right-hander Calvin Matthews making only a limited appearance, Iowa was forced to rely on the bullpen.

The bullpen pitchers did get it done, helping to lift the Hawkeyes to a three-game sweep of the Jackrabbits while limiting them to just 7 runs over three games. 

“The bullpen has done a great job, and I think last weekend was just another example of that,” Heller said. “Everyone there has done great work with handling the adversity and finding a way to get it done.”

Junior Nick Hibbing, normally the closer for Iowa, is just one of many Hawkeye pitchers who has seen his workload increase this season.

“Whatever I need to do to help the team, I’ll gladly do,” he said. “The entire off-season, we talked about how people need to step up when someone goes down, so regardless of if you’re a freshman or senior, when your name is called, you need to step up.”

Vast as they may be, Iowa’s injuries are not limited to the mound. 

After starting catcher Trevor Kenyon was sidelined with a strained PCL in early April, sophomore Jimmy Frankos stepped in to fill the hole left by his absence.

Not only has Frankos sufficed, he has excelled. 

In 13 starts, the Park Ridge, Ill., native is hitting .365, and he has done a masterful job backstopping a seemingly endless rotation of Iowa pitchers.

“All good teams are going to face adversity, but we’re going to overcome it,” Frankos said.

“Everybody knows that you’re just one guy away from getting an opportunity, so when you get it, you try your best to step up.”

So while the injuries have limited Iowa’s options at times, Frankos and the Hawkeyes have the same expectations going into their weekend matchup with the Buckeyes that they have had all year — to win.

“We still have a goal of making the Big Ten Tournament, so we’re going about everything with the same mindset,” Frankos said.


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