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Notebook: Pitching fuels hot Hawkeye start

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MARCH 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller met with the media Wednesday to discuss his team’s current winning streak as well as discuss what’s on the horizon for the Black and Gold.

Winners of seven straight, the Hawkeyes will try to stay hot this weekend as they prep for a three-game series against Middle Tennessee State.

Pitching strength proves key early on

Iowa’s pitchers have been the biggest story of the season so far for the Black and Gold.  

Owners of the best ERA in the Big Ten, Iowa’s arms have been the driving force behind the team’s hot start. One of the biggest reasons for that dominance has been the work the coaching staff has done in teaching Iowa’s pitchers when to pitch around and intentionally walk specific batters.

“Our walk totals look kind of high, but we’ve intentionally walked eight or nine guys this year,” Heller said. “We’ve played against two teams that have two of the better hitters in the country, so we just try to go into a game with the mindset that we’re not going to let one player beat us.”

It has helped the pitchers and allowed them to not have to dig themselves out of holes.

“The scouting reports the coaches get us on each hitter are very elaborate,” junior pitcher Tyler Radtke said. “The coaches really do a good job of that. When one of the coaches wants us to walk a guy, we trust it’s the right decision.”

Getting off on the right foot

After dropping the opening game of the season a few weeks ago, the Hawks have made up for it by winning seven straight. And while the team isn’t worried about the streak, the strong start has been encouraging for Heller.

“It’s something that I definitely think is better as we’ve played more,” Heller said. “We’ve really been trying to focus on coming out with better energy and focus from the very beginning, especially offensively.”

The Hawks managed no runs in their first eight innings of the last game against Cincinnati but pulled out a win thanks to a 5-run top of the ninth. 

“It’s important, especially the way our pitchers have been going out and setting the tone early,” senior Jake Mangler said. “Their jumping on teams gives us confidence and kind of takes the other team down a little bit.”

Hitting will come

While the pitching has been consistent, the Hawks have still struggled to put together a string of solid offensive performances. 

The Hawkeyes boast a quite underwhelming team batting average of .244, however Heller isn’t going to push the panic button.

Consistent plate appearances will come once the environment for hitting improves, he said.

“You hate to make excuses for guys, but we really haven’t played in an environment that’s conducive to hitting so far this season,” Heller said. “A lot of the times you get out there, and it’s cold and drizzling, and it really makes it tough to get hits.

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


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