Youthful Hawkeyes Eyeing Big Things
Feb. 8, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The youth movement was in full swing in 2012 for the University of Iowa baseball team. Now, a year later, head coach Jack Dahm is hoping the move will pay dividends.
"We are pretty young, but we've got some veteran experience with Dan Sheppard and Ricky Sandquist, two of the hardest working guys in our program," said Dahm during the 2013 Iowa baseball media day inside the Indoor Practice Facility. "We also have a bunch of talented young kids who gained a lot of experience last year."
The Hawkeyes have five sophomores that are expected to be in the starting lineup as positional players in second baseman Jake Mangler, shortstop Jake Yacinich, third baseman Nick Day and outfielders Kris Goodman and Eric Toole.
The five combined to start 139 games as true freshmen; Yacinich led the group with a .292 average with eight doubles and 24 RBIs. The Des Moines, Iowa, native was selected as a preseason All-Big Ten honoree by College Sports Madness.
On the mound, Iowa returns two of its three starting pitchers in senior Matt Dermody and sophomore Sasha Kuebel, a freshman All-American in 2012. The final rotation spot is up for grabs between sophomore Andrew Hedrick and true freshman Calvin Mathews.
"I like what we have," said Dahm of the current roster. "Their attitudes have been outstanding. We've got a talented bunch and a belief."
The Hawkeyes have a belief that they're going to be one of the final six teams playing in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament at Target Field in Minneapolis, but the team is more in tune to the present.
"We don't want to look too far forward," said Dahm. "We think we have a chance to be a very, very good ball club if we have the proper attitude, continue to work hard, and get better every day."
"Coach has been preaching to us to focus in the present moment and things will take care of themselves," said Yacinich.
After winning 10-of-17 games that were decided by one run a season ago, the Hawkeyes want more, especially in late March when Big Ten play kicks off.
"We had a lot of close games last year, especially in the Big Ten, which we were not able to finish," said Mangler. "If we were, we would have been in a better position at the end of the year. We're working on the little things to close out those types of games. That is going to be a big thing for us."
"We need to play pitch-to-pitch," said Yacinich. "Sometimes last year, we would look at the ninth inning when we were only in the sixth. Play that pitch, take care of that play, and take it from there."
Dahm has noticed a different hunger in practice and more competition. Both should benefit the Hawkeyes when the games begin one week from today in Clarksville, Tenn., against Austin Peay.
"This team has a little different focus and a little different hunger," he said. "One of the hardest things to find is competitive kids that bring it every day. We've got those kids in the program more than we've had in the past. That's something that is going to benefit us throughout the season."