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Iowa baseball media day notebook

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | FEBRUARY 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa baseball team held its media day Tuesday afternoon as the unofficial kickoff to the 2015 season.

Second-year head coach Rick Heller and his players spoke at length about the upcoming season and what challenges they expect to face over the course of their 53-game schedule.

After a 30-win campaign last season, Heller and the Hawkeyes seek to take another step forward in 2015.

Managing expectations

For perhaps the first time in more than four years, the Iowa baseball team feels the weight of expectations in the preseason.

A bounce-back season in Heller’s first season coupled with the top recruiting class in the Big Ten has the Hawks looking like a legitimate contender for the first time in years.

And while the increased expectations may be new to most of the players, they haven’t shied away from the pressure. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“This is what these guys wanted, so I don’t really think they feel much pressure, to be honest,” Heller said.  “The seniors especially, I know they really want to go out with a bang, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Luckily for them, the Hawks are returning the bulk of their offense from one year ago, including senior captains Eric Toole, Jake Mangler, and Kris Goodman.

“Expectations are high,” Toole said. “We won 30 games last year, which is the most since I’ve been here, so we want to repeat that. We have to come out with the same fire as we did last year.”

Pitching depth key moving forward

A number of injuries and setbacks took its toll on the Iowa pitching staff last season, leaving it near the bottom of the Big Ten in both ERA and opposing batting average.

As a result, Heller and his staff went out and added four freshman pitchers, namely in the bullpen, in the off-season. A new infusion of talent plus a clean bill of health on the mound could very well prove to be Iowa’s X-factor this season.

“Our pitching staff is 10 times deeper than it was last year,” junior Calvin Matthews said. “This is definitely the best team we’ve had since I’ve been at Iowa.”

Matthews was sidelined the last two weeks of 2014 with an injured shoulder, and while he’s not 100 percent just yet, he expects to be ready to go come March.

“I wouldn’t say 100 percent, but I’m almost all the way back,” Matthews said. “I’ve had therapy every day which has helped quite a bit.”

Roscetti wants to step up

Perhaps the biggest loss for the Hawkeyes this year is shortstop Jake Yacinich, who parted ways with the Black and Gold over the summer after being selected in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Los Angeles Angels.

And while junior Nick Roscetti will have some big shoes to fill on the left side this season, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt about his ability to fill them.

“Yac was a good leader last year, but Nick will step up in his spot,” Toole said. “He’s played before, and he knows how to play the role, so I think he’ll do a great job for us.”

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa baseball team.


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