Baseball delivers the pitch

BY IAN MURPHY | MARCH 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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For head coach Rick Heller and his team, a deep and talented pitching staff is something to be thankful for.

Through 19 games this season, the Hawkeyes are tied with Cal-Santa Barbara for the eighth-best ERA in the country at 2.20. They also average 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Despite what he called a step back for his pitching staff over the last few games, Heller said he has confidence in his starters and his bullpen.

“We knew we had a lot better depth than the year before,” he said. “Our bullpen has really done an outstanding job of coming in and throwing strikes … It’s really nice to have.”

The bullpen has been consistent when called on, he said, and he is grateful for the rotation.

One of the teams’ starters, senior Calvin Matthews, agrees.

“Compared to last year, there have been adjustments made,” he said. “We’ve got arms in the bullpen now, guys who can throw 90 mph.”

Matthews struggled in his outing against Kansas, lasting just 4.2 innings before being pulled for a parade of five relief pitchers. His early exit was not part of the plan.

“He just wasn’t himself,” Heller said. “We wanted him to go five innings and give him a chance to get the win, but he was really laboring.”

Matthew’s said the bullpen has been night and day different from this season to last season.

The pitching consistency has been noticeable to the rest of the team as well.

Redshirt senior infielder Jake Mangler said he appreciates the bullpen as much as the starting pitchers do.

“It’s definitely a lot better than it has been in the past, having guys if our starters don’t do well early it’s nice to know we have them down there to slow down the game,” Mangler said.

The Hawkeyes will need their pitching staff against the Braves. Bradley is off to a 16-5 start, compared with Iowa’s 14-5, and that is Iowa’s best start since a 19-5 start in 1941.

The Braves are 3-1 against the Hawkeyes since the 2011 season. Iowa and Bradley each took wins on the road against the other last season.

“They’re playing really well,” Heller said. “They have a lot of older guys, and they’re doing a great job of swinging the bats.”

Bradley has 20 home runs as a team, 19th in the nation.

The key for the Hawkeyes to win their second home game of the season, Mangler said, is playing their own game.

“[If we] just kind of play our baseball game, we’ll kind of get through that and get to Indiana,” Mangler said.

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

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