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Baseball ready for season opener

BY IAN MURPHY | FEBRUARY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Dates with Kansas State, St. Louis, and George Mason await the Hawkeye baseball team when the plane lands in Florida.

Iowa will kick off its season at the Snowbird classic in Port Charlotte, Florida, with high expectations both internally and externally.

The Hawkeyes return several core members from their 30-win team a season ago, and the first game against Big 12 opponent Kansas State is exactly the kind of game the Hawks wanted.

“I’m excited to see [the team] play,” second-year head coach Rick Heller said. “K-State is kind of the big question mark for us.”

The Wildcats were the Big 12 regular-season champions in 2013 with a 45-19 record but struggled in 2014, finishing 25-30.

“There are a lot of new faces on that team,” Heller said. “Who knows what you’re going to see.”

Jumping into the season with a tough opening weekend, Heller said, will give him a chance to see what his team needs to work on.

“Obviously, we’re going to try to win all three games,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, seeing us play and giving us an idea of what we need to work on in the next week and the week after is just as important at this point in the year.”

The opening weekend is not weighing heavily on the mind of opening-day pitcher junior Tyler Peyton, who started 14 games on the mound for the Hawkeyes last season.

Peyton’s goals are simple for Kansas State;  he said the big-name opponent will not bother him.

“Just execute the pitches that coach calls,” he said. “And hopefully, they don’t hit them where we’re not.”

The goals for the Hawkeyes are to get the wins, although they won’t come easily.

St. Louis finished 34-21-1 last season, and George Mason finished 34-22, so the Hawkeyes have a challenging weekend ahead of them.

“It’s a general theme around our team that we’d rather play a hard schedule and maybe not win as many games, but the ones we do win are going to mean more,” senior Jake Mangler said.

Heller had similar beliefs, noting that his expectations are to see great effort and execution.

“This early on, I just want to see how guys go out and react to playing against a good opponent,” he said.

However challenging the weekend, Heller looks forward to getting his team outside. The Iowa winter limits the team to practicing indoors, although Iowa did work out outside earlier this year when weather allowed.

“They haven’t had a bad day in the indoor practice,” Heller said. “Now, it’s time to get outside and see the guys compete.”

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


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