Iowa baseball moves on following departures

The Hawkeyes lost a lot of key pieces from last season, but fall ball helps them get a glimpse of the future.


Roman Slabach

Hawkeye at bat during Iowa’s game against Ontario Blue Jays at Duane Banks Field on Sept. 21, 2018.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

As the weather cools down, the fall schedule heats up for Iowa baseball, but the squad is missing some familiar faces.

After a season with at least 30 wins for the fifth-consecutive year, the Hawkeyes said goodbye to MLB draftees Robert Neustrom, Tyler Cropley, Nick Allgeyer, Zach Daniels, and Brady Schanuel, as well as utility man Matt Hoeg.

Starting shortstop Kyle Crowl has also confirmed to The Daily Iowan that he will not be with the team in 2019.

The departures leave a lot of openings both in the field and on the mound, and the Hawkeyes need players to step up, just as many of those drafted did in the past.

“I think [fall games] are really important because all of the guys get their feet wet and you’re not doing it the first game of the season down in Florida like you are a lot of years,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “I think it will really help with guys feeling like they belong.”

RELATED: Iowa shortstop Kyle Crowl leaves Hawkeye baseball

Luckily for Iowa, fall ball gives the group a chance to get some experience for the newcomers and allows them to showcase what they can do in real at-bats and pitching against real hitters.

In the first fall game, Connor McCaffery did just that.

Starting in right field after redshirting in 2018, the dual-sport athlete posted an impressive performance on the diamond, going 6-for-8 with 4 RBIs, a double, and 2 stolen bases in Iowa’s 23-5 win over Southeastern Community College in a 13-inning game.

The contest provided a perfect opportunity for McCaffery — as well as the other newcomers — to ease into things before the real season comes in the spring.

“The fall, it’s a great time to really grind and work on what you need to work on, and figure out what you’re going to do once the season comes around when it comes to approach at the plate, approach in the field,” McCaffery said. “You’ll get all different types of situations that you’ll be involved in, and you’ll learn how to manage those.”

Along with helping those new to the team learn the ins and outs of Division-1 baseball, the extra games help bring the team together in ways that wouldn’t be possible without a fall schedule.

“It’s key to start gelling early, and the earlier we do that, then the easier it’s going to be come spring,” shortstop/outfielder Tanner Wetrich said. “It’ll be a lot better confidence-wise when we get there.”

For returners, it’s all about getting back into the swing of things before the real season takes over.

Along with the win over Southeastern, the Hawkeyes picked up a 12-7 victory over the Ontario Blue Jays. Games remaining include Iowa Scout Day on Sept. 28 before a battle against Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 5. Iowa’s Black and Gold Fall World Series scrimmage Oct. 10-12 will close the fall schedule.

While the extra at-bats and practice is important, the fall season doesn’t really affect the Hawkeyes from a record standpoint. It’s all about the journey to reaching their peak in the spring and seeing the new players in action.

“We’re a process-driven team and what we’re trying to teach right now is a process that wins and how you go about your business, how you handle things when they don’t go well,” Heller said. “On the other side, you’re obviously trying to win the game, but you also want to get out of it what you need, and that’s allowing everybody to play and getting a chance to see all your new guys out there.”