The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

All Eyes on Omaha

Iowa head coach Rick Heller speaks with the media at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on May 24 in anticipation of the Big Ten Tournament that starts on May 25.

Iowa baseball head coach Rick Heller stepped onto the stage inside TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the site of the 2016 Big Ten Baseball Tournament, along with the seven other Big Ten coaches that qualified for the postseason tournament to talk about the week ahead of them on Tuesday morning.

Each coach started with an opening statement and then opened up the press conference to questions.

“We’re excited to be here. It’s our third straight year [qualifying]; it’s the first time in our program’s history that’s happened, so it’s a big step for our program,” Heller said in his statement. “I’m really proud of our kids and how hard they’ve played. They didn’t have the easiest road to get here but they persevered and it always makes a coach happy when you play good baseball at the end of the season.”

Heller and the Hawkeyes played arguably the toughest schedule in the Big Ten this season. Each team’s conference schedule has eight three-game series– meaning four teams are left off the schedule.

Excluded from Iowa’s schedule were Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Rutgers. Northwestern, Purdue, and Rutgers were three of the four teams that failed to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa, the 8-seed in the tournament, will take on top-seed Minnesota Wednesday night at 5 pm. The Hawkeyes matched up with the Gophers early on in the conference season, with Minnesota taking two-of-three from Iowa in Minneapolis.

“It’s never easy when you have to play the [conference] champion right off the bat,” Heller said. “Minnesota poses a lot of problems. They’re very good on the mound, they’re the best hitting team in our league, the best fielding team in our league. There’s no weakness when you play those guys…the positive thing from a scouting standpoint is that we have all played, so we’ll be able to break things down against the opponent.”

When asked about Iowa, Minnesota head coach John Anderson was quick to compliment Heller and the work he has done with the Hawkeyes, and said the Hawkeyes being labeled as the 8-seed doesn’t mean much to him.

I know this, Rick [Heller]’s team was in the NCAA Tournament a year ago,” Anderson said. “He lost some talented players but he’s done an outstanding job of getting his team back here. As I said before, I don’t think there’s a big difference between the first team and the eighth team here…we know they’ll be well coached and play the game the right way.”

The Hawkeyes had to scratch and claw their way into the Big Ten Tournament this year, unlike last year when they finished second in the league.

After losing two-of-three games at Ohio State from May 6-8, things looked bleak for Iowa. Heller had said earlier in the conference season he thought it would take 12 conference wins to get into the tournament. With two weekends and six games left, the Hawkeyes had eight conference wins and matchups against two teams ahead of them in the rankings left.

After dropping game one of their series against Michigan State, the Hawkeyes rattled off four straight Big Ten wins to get themselves into the tournament on their final day of the regular season.

Heller said senior two-way star Tyler Peyton was a big part of the turnaround.

“Tyler Peyton is as healthy as he’s been all season,” Heller said. “He hurt his arm in the first game of the season, and tried to fight through it, but it just didn’t work. So we had to shut him down for about three weeks.

“Now that he’s back, he’s pitched outstanding down the stretch. As he got healthy, he started to hit again which was big for our club, and really picked us up and gave us a boost. We started to catch some breaks, and our kids stuck with the plan and kept playing, and it came back to us a little bit.”

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