2008 Season Preview
Jan. 30, 2008
In his fifth season with the Hawkeyes, Iowa Baseball Coach Jack Dahm is looking to continue the success of last year's team, who posted a 31-23 record. With a solid and experienced group of players returning and a talented squad of new athletes, the Hawkeyes are set to continue their improvement in the Big Ten and have a run at the Big Ten title.
While it will not be easy to replace Jason White and Dusty Napoleon in the infield, the Hawkeyes will still have an experienced and talented core. Kevin Hoef, Justin Toole, T.J. Cataldo, Wes Freie and senior transfer Matt Mossey will contribute this season.
Senior transfer Matt Mossey will play third base after spending three years as the starting shortstop at North Dakota State.
"He is a high-energy type of player that will bring some valuable experience to the left side of our infield," Dahm said.
Battling for playing time at third will be senior Kody McManis.
"Kody has worked extremely hard in all phases of his game," Dahm said. "Kody will be looked at to play third base when Matt comes to close games out on the mound."
Junior Kevin Hoef will move to shortstop after two years as the Hawkeyes' starting third baseman. Hoef had 14 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games his sophomore season and led the team with 15 hit by pitches.
"Kevin had a great summer in Cape Cod and we believe he is going to have a big year both offensively and defensively," Dahm said.
At second base, junior Justin Toole will return after a breakout season as a sophomore. Toole ranked in the Big Ten top 10 in batting last season (.374).
"I am looking forward to watching Justin step out and become one of our leaders both offensively and defensively," Dahm said.
Also in the mix will be Zach McCool, who had a very good fall and will give second base depth. McCool will also battle for the right-handed designated hitter (DH) position and will be a valuable bat off the bench.
At first base, junior Wes Freie returns. He made 18 starts at first base and eight at DH last season and hit a team-best .667 as a pinch hitter.
"Wes has worked extremely hard over the summer and has learned a lot over the past two seasons," Dahm said. "He will see a lot of action at first base and as a DH."
T.J. Cataldo will provide depth at the position. Cataldo can also play third base and provides great versatility.
"T.J. is a self-made player and I could not be happier for him and the success he had last season," Dahm said.
Ryan Gryzwa, Mike Voitek and Trevor Willis will provide depth to the infield as utility players.
The Hawkeyes come into the 2008 season with numbers and experience at catcher.
After coming off an injury suffered in 2006 and starting 33 games at catcher his junior campaign, Ben Geelan enters the season as Iowa's No. 1 catcher.
"Ben is one of the top catchers in the Big Ten and he brings experience and leadership to our program," Dahm said. "Ben has really matured as a catcher and he understands how we want him to handle our pitching staff."
Tyson Blaser will be sharing catching duties with Geelan this season and Coach Dahm believes he will also contribute as the Hawkeyes right handed DH.
Kevin Lee, Kody McManis and Greg Gieslemann will also contribute.
The Hawkeyes will have a lot of depth in the outfield this season. Not only does this year's outfielder corps have depth, but a number of players have the ability to play multiple positions.
Caleb Curry moves from leftfield to center, where he will replace Travis Sweet, who is playing in the Houston Astros organization. Curry led the team with a 15-game hitting streak last season and had a .412 average with runners in scoring position.
"Caleb brings a lot of energy to our ballclub," Dahm said. "What I enjoy most about Caleb is that he loves to play the game and he has the ability to make his teammates better."
In rightfield, the Hawkeyes will look to senior Kyle Riffel who hit .625 as the inning's leadoff hitter and did not make an error his junior season.
"Kyle is our best defensive outfielder," Dahm said. "He is an outstanding athlete that is really starting to make strides offensively."
Justin Brauer is expected to see a lot of playing time as well, after playing 14 games last season.
"Justin is an explosive athlete that can play anywhere," Dahm said. "He swung the bat very well this fall and is one of the best base runners we have."
Kurtis Muller will also see a lot of playing time this season, after having a great fall season.
"Kurtis impressed everybody this fall with the way he approached the field everyday," Dahm said. "He has put himself in a position to play a lot as a freshman."
Phil Keppler, Nick Muhlenbruch and Jeff Pacha are three talented left-handed hitting outfielders that will give the team some versatility in the lineup, along with right-handed hitting Mike Feierstein.