Iowa Club Baseball continues dominant run

Iowa’s ‘fraternity of baseball’ has been a club powerhouse for years now, and it will try to add another conference title to its trophy case this weekend.

Robert Read, Sports Reporter

A championship series is being played in Iowa City this weekend. It is a Cy-Hawk matchup that will determine which brings home the conference title.

The game being played in baseball. The home team that seeks to secure the championship is the Iowa Baseball Club.

Don’t let the word “club” fool you — this team takes winning seriously.

“Someone may discredit us at first because we are a club team, but once they come and see us work, they will change how they think of us,” senior outfielder Frankie Mauro said.

The club baseball team at the University of Iowa is one of the most dominant teams in the country, having won conference championships from 2009-17. It currently boasts a 24-3 record and a No. 4 national ranking.

A key component to the team’s continued success is that it continues to bring in quality talent year after year.

“I think with being a big university, we do bring in a lot of talent,” junior outfielder Jack Cappalli said. “There are a lot of talented kids who come here and want to continue playing baseball. People hear about us. We have high-schoolers who contact us saying they want to try out, so it really helps that we have a very big pool of talent coming in.”

Cappalli was named an All-American in the outfield in 2017 and last year earned team MVP honors.

Mauro, as well as team Vice President and catcher Tanner Natzke, took a different approach on their path to the Iowa club. Both first played at the Division-3 level before transferring to the UI.

“There are a couple guys on the team who came from a Division-3 school or a junior college,” Natzke said. “I just wanted a better educational experience, and I heard about the club and figured I could continue to play baseball here.”

RELATED: Breaking down Iowa baseball’s series win over Ohio State

Mauro had similar thoughts.

“I went and played Division-3 baseball at Central College. I played there for a year and I enjoyed the baseball aspect, but I thought the environment was a little too much like high school, a little bit too small,” he said. “I visited Iowa and saw so many opportunities, so I transferred here and then heard about the club team, and I went to tryouts right away. It was definitely a life-changing experience for the better.”

The team is a self-described “fraternity of baseball” and with team trips to Florida, South Dakota, and Minnesota, there are plenty of bonding opportunities for the group.

“We’re always together,” Natzke said. “When you get here on this team, you have a family. You get together, and everyone gets so close so quickly, and that’s a big part of our success as well — just how close we are as a group. We get together and just enjoy playing baseball.”

The upcoming series against the rival Cyclones will offer Iowa a chance at redemption from last year. Iowa State ended Iowa’s streak of conference championships after claiming the title, something the players will keep in mind during the series.

“Last year, we kind of came out and flopped after not playing for a few weeks,” Cappalli said. “I think that’s in the back of everyone’s minds as motivation to keep going. We don’t want to come out again and play the types of games we played last year.”

The series for the championship will begin Saturday at Iowa City West with a doubleheader and conclude with a rubber match on May 5 if needed. It will be the first action for Iowa in weeks because of the weather, and the players are anxious to take the diamond and do what they love to do: play baseball.

“These guys are my brothers,” Mauro said. “We all live and breathe baseball, even if it is at a club level, but we come in every day with the same mindset and the same goals, and that is to win the conference, win regionals, and then go to the world series and win it.”