Iowa baseball pitching staff remains one of the best in the Big Ten despite losing five of six top arms from last season

The Hawkeyes have seamlessly replaced Adam Mazur, Connor Shultz, Duncan Davitt, Dylan Nedved, and Ben Beutel.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa pitcher Aaron Salvary throws the ball during a baseball game between Iowa and Bradley at Duane Banks Field on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Braves, 6-1. Salvary allowed one hit in two innings of play.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

In 2022, the Iowa baseball team’s pitching staff was one of the reasons the Hawkeyes finished third in the Big Ten standings. A year ago, Iowa’s hurlers led the conference in strikeouts, ERA, and opponent batting average.

Entering the 2023 season, the pitching staff had big shoes — and innings — to fill, as the Hawkeyes lost five of their top six inning-eaters from the previous year. Starters Adam Mazur, Dylan Nedved, Connor Shultz, Duncan Davitt, and closer Ben Beutel all entered the MLB Draft.

Iowa also lost longtime pitching coach Robin Lund in the offseason, as he agreed to be the Detroit Tigers’ new assistant pitching coach.

“We knew that this was the least-experienced pitching staff we have had in a long, long time,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “We have had guys that were trustworthy strike throwers, six, seven, and eight deep, the last four years.”

Now under the watch of Sean McGrath, the former pitching coach of the Seattle Mariners’ Double-A affiliate the Arkansas Travelers, the Hawkeye arms haven’t missed a beat.

With just over a dozen regular season games left, the Iowa hurlers find themselves in the upper echelon of almost every pitching category in the conference.

As of April 24, with a new-look staff, the Hawkeyes again lead the Big Ten in strikeouts, ERA, and opponent batting average.

Sophomore Brody Brecht, who came out of the bullpen last season, is now the Hawkeyes’ Friday starter and tied for the Big Ten lead in strikeouts and hits allowed. Brecht is leading the conference in opponent batting average by over 30 percentage points.

But it’s not just Brecht. Junior Ty Langenberg is also top-15 in the conference in ERA, earned runs, and strikeouts.

“I think it’s just guys buying into just executing one pitch at a time, accepting and embracing their roles, and understanding that it is going to take the entire staff to go ahead and do what we want to do,” McGrath said.

The sophomore tandem of Marcus Morgan and Brecht replaced Mazur and Nedved as weekend starters, and a combination of juniors Luke Llewellyn and Will Christopherson and freshman Cade Obermueller have all been solid late-game options.

Under McGrath’s watch, the Hawkeyes have continued to win games, even as their bats have cooled off.

“Early [in the season] we were just scoring runs, and we were pretty hot from up and down the lineup,” Heller said. “It didn’t matter if the pitchers walked a bunch of guys or gave up a bunch of runs. We would just find ways to outscore them. All of us knew that wasn’t sustainable.”

Iowa has allowed less than five runs in nine of the 15 games it has played so far in April. The Hawkeyes are 11-5 this month.

Langenberg said the key to Iowa’s success has been attacking batters early in at-bats and pitching from ahead in the count.

“Really the biggest part of our success is getting ahead of batters and then being able to execute on two-strike counts,” Langenberg said. “That’s really the biggest thing. Just being competitive with all of our pitches.”