Iowa baseball ready for four-game home tilt with Rutgers and Maryland

The Hawkeyes will play Maryland on Friday and Saturday and Northwestern on Sunday and Monday.


Grace Smith

Iowa pitcher, Drew Irvine, pitches the ball to a Minnesota player during the Iowa baseball game v. Minnesota at the Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on April 11, 2021.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Ahead of Iowa baseball’s series with both Maryland and Northwestern at Duane Banks Field this weekend, Hawkeye pitcher Drew Irvine has started to find his groove.

In his April 11 start against Minnesota in Iowa City, Irvine pitched seven innings, struck out six batters, and surrendered just one earned on two hits.

Last Saturday against Rutgers, Irvine pitched a complete game, struck out five batters, and gave up one earned run on six hits.

Irvine’s 2021 season got off to a bit of a rocky start. The Waukee, Iowa, native said he spent 10 to 12 days of his preseason cooped up in a hotel room because of University of Iowa Athletics and Big Ten Conference COVID-19 protocols.

Last season, Irvine was not a starter. Rather, he came out of Iowa’s bullpen as a relief pitcher.

Missing a large portion of the preseason did not make Irvine’s transition from reliever to starter any smoother. In his first five games as a starter, Irvine gave up 14 earned runs.

“I think I really improved in the offseason and during quarantine to put myself in a spot to be a starter,” Irvine said. “And I’ve added a fourth pitch to my repertoire, so I think that timing four pitches that I can locate in the zone really helps me go longer than just a couple innings, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job of that so far the last few weeks.”

Irvine also noted that, as a starter, he can’t throw all of his pitches at the same batter in the same inning like he could as reliever.

Pitching coach Robin Lund has pushed Irvine to use his curveball both early and late in the count. Irvine said he’s utilized his curveball to get ahead in counts all season long.

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“He’s done a really good job of focusing on his routine to be able to use his deep breaths to be able to keep his focus on that next pitch,” Hawkeye head coach Heller said. “And he’s just really gained a lot of maturity in my opinion in the last three weeks, and I’m super proud of him for taking it head on.”

Hawkeye first baseman Peyton Williams has also been on a roll of late.

Williams’ 20 RBIs rank second on Iowa’s roster this season, and he is currently riding a 16-game on-base streak.

Like Irvine, Williams has improved throughout the season. Williams said he was trying to create hits at the beginning of the season, rather than letting pitches he can hit come to him.

“Now, I kind of go up there and just focus more on what I can control and just try to get the best swing off I can,” Williams said. “Try to do anything I can to get on base because I just know if I put the ball in play hard, I have a much higher chance of getting on base than swing at something bad and trying to force a hit, and then that’s when I started swinging at bad pitches and started striking out more and just not executing the way I want to.”

The Hawkeyes will play their first two games of the weekend against 13-12 Maryland on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Iowa will then take on 12-12 Northwestern on Sunday and Monday.

All four of the Hawkeyes’ games against Northwestern and Maryland will air on the Big Ten Network.