Hellerball on wheels

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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To fully capture what the Iowa baseball team accomplished in one season would require more space than my editors could provide me.

In backwards order, we saw five Hawkeye baseball players drafted, a chance at a super-regional berth, the team’s first postseason win in 43 years, 40 wins on the season, the clinching of back-to-back 30-win seasons, and … you get the idea. The list of accomplishments could go on all day.

At one point, Iowa was projected to host a regional and might have done so without a late-season slump. Then there was disappointment when it was clear Iowa wasn’t going to be a host.

Let that sink in. In two seasons, head coach Rick Heller turned a Hawkeye team from perennially a doormat, composed mostly of players left by his predecessor, into a Big Ten title contender and a team good enough to nearly host a regional.

The disappointment was that the consistently packed Banks Field wouldn’t see postseason play.

The disappointment wasn’t that the Hawkeyes missed the postseason, let alone the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa baseball was down on its luck just a few seasons ago, but after a season such as this, it’s hard not to be optimistic.

On the pitcher’s mound, there’s the return of Tyler Peyton, both the Friday night starter and the Hawkeyes’ best hitter, Calvin Matthews, the Sunday starter, and Ryan Erickson, the best left-handed pitcher on the staff and one likely to move into a starting role.

Closer Luke Vandermaten as well as a slew of other relievers will be back as well.

Three capable catchers, as well as right fielder Joel Booker and shortstop Nick Roscetti, will also return. Factor in the top recruiting classes in the Big Ten two years in a row, and Hawkeye fans will have something to cheer for, and be proud of, again next season.

When basketball and wrestling end in mid-March, baseball season is still in its infancy. And by the time the snow melts, whenever that may be in Iowa, HellerBall will be a fully functional machine.

The groundwork has been laid the last two seasons by the names you’ve heard a hundred times now, but the Hawkeyes have found something special in their particular brand of baseball.

It’s the same brand of baseball played all season, too. The Hawkeyes never got wide-eyed, nor did they play outside of themselves.

It was the Iowa way through and through, from the first game of the season against Kansas State to the last against Missouri State.

The draftees and graduates can be replaced, and the Hawkeyes can keep winning.

The 2015 season can be a springboard for years to come. With the postseason victory drought of 43 years out of the way, a new drought presents itself for the Hawkeyes.

The same 1972 season when the Hawkeyes previously won a game in the NCAA Tournament was also the program’s last berth in the College World Series.

With all the turnover and unanswered questions, the Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them. But if 2015’s iteration was any indication, a team initially predicted to finish ninth in the Big Ten can do big things.

All droughts end. Some of them end with rain. Others with a little dose of HellerBall.

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