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

Iowa baseball notebook | Head coach Rick Heller discusses the team’s status as Big Ten play begins

The Hawkeyes have won six of their last seven games.
Daniel McGregor-Huyer
Iowa first basemen Brennen Dorighi high-fives head coach Rick Heller after hitting a home run during a baseball game between Iowa and Bradley at Duane Banks Field on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.The Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the Bradley Braves, 6-1. Dorighi recorded two hits in five at-bats.

The Iowa baseball team hosts its first Big Ten conference series this weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Hawkeyes head into this matchup winning six of their last seven games and are coming off of their first conference series win at Purdue. 

After dropping the first game to the Boilermakers, the Hawkeyes secured wins on Saturday and Sunday, earning the much-needed series victory. 

“It was a really solid performance and bounce back by the offense,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “Defensively, there were more good plays. There was good pitching out of the bullpen. We end up coming home and feeling pretty good about things.”

The most important factor for Iowa that weekend was the bullpen. For most of the year, the Hawkeye relief staff hasn’t found its footing and has struggled to hold onto leads.

That wasn’t the case against Purdue. On Saturday, second-year Aaron Savary earned his second win of the season, giving the Hawkeyes just over two scoreless innings while only allowing one hit. 

In the series-clinching win on Sunday, fourth-year Jack Young and third-year Jack Whitlock each threw just over one scoreless inning each with a combined four strikeouts. 

“[The bullpen] has been steady here for the past couple of weeks,” Heller said. “They have been getting more comfortable and throwing more strikes. Good things happen when you do that. Having two or three of those guys like Savory, Jack Young, and Whitlock — the rest of those guys are seeing those guys go out, and they are following suit.”

The Hawkeyes head into the series without a midweek game as their contest against Illinois State was cancelled due to weather. Without the midweek, Heller will not be able to give people in the bullpen some opportunities that they would have had against the Redbirds. 

“The disappointing thing is we didn’t get to play yesterday,” Heller said. “We had a bunch of guys that didn’t get in this weekend that we really needed that midweek game.”

To counter this lack of a game-type atmosphere, Heller and his coaching staff will hold simulated indoor scrimmages to give his guys as real of a look as possible before Friday. 

“We didn’t get to play the game, and it sucks,” Heller said. “But we are going to do simulated games in here, and the mindset has to be the same so we can keep making the strides of improvement.”

While not a fan of losing a chance to compete against another team, Heller is happy his position players can rest and recover at home after spending multiple weeks in a row on the road. 

“On the flip side, our position players have had five out of six weeks on the road, and this probably wasn’t the worst week for them to have a cold out,” Heller said. “They can get back at home, sleep in their own bed, and get caught up in their school work. Take these two weeks and be in a good, rested place to make a good run.”

Iowa will be taking on a Minnesota team that is 9-10 on the season but is coming off of a series win against San Francisco. 

The Gophers flex a team earned-run average of 4.78 — good for fourth-best in the conference, using an array of bullpen arms that hold opponents in the late innings of a game. 

“We got Minnesota this weekend, and we know that they have a lot of good arms,” Heller said. “They have really good stuff, some of the best stuff we have seen this year even with the SEC teams we’ve played. Their Friday night guy beat us last year. They have a good back-end guy and some older guys on the position side that play hard. We know it’s going to be a battle this year.”

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About the Contributors
Jake Olson, Sports Reporter
Email: [email protected] Jake Olson is a Sports Reporter for The Daily Iowan. In his three years with the paper, he has covered everything from rowing to basketball. He is studying journalism and mass communication with a minor in sports and rec management.
Daniel McGregor-Huyer
Daniel McGregor-Huyer, Photojournalist/Videographer
Email: [email protected] Daniel McGregor-Huyer is a photojournalist and videographer at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior majoring in cinematic arts with a certificate in disability studies. He has worked with the DI as a photographer and videographer for two years.