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Iowa travels to Tampa today for annual Big Ten/Big East Challenge
Senior Phil Keppler and the Hawkeyes open the 2012 season Friday.
Senior Phil Keppler and the Hawkeyes open the 2012 season Friday.
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Feb. 16, 2012



Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa baseball team opens its 2012 campaign tomorrow against Pittsburgh in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.

The high temperature yesterday in Iowa City was in the mid-40s. Iowa will be greeted in Tampa, Fla., by temperatures in the low-80s, and the team is chomping at the bit to get started.

"I am ready to get out there," said senior pitcher Jarred Hippen. "The whole team is. We are ready to go. It is going to be great to get out in the warm weather."

"Our guys have worked hard," said ninth-year head coach Jack Dahm. "We are really looking forward to this year."

The schedule will present another challenge for the Hawkeyes, warm weather or not.

"It is another challenging one," said Dahm. "In the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, we are facing some teams that we are familiar with. We are opening up with Pittsburgh, and they have been one of the best offensive teams in the country for a long time.

"Notre Dame will be a young ball club but will be extremely talented. West Virginia, who we have played the previous couple years, has given us some challenges. The opening weekend will be very tough, especially coming right out of 'The Bubble.' We are going to get a chance to get down there early to get a opportunity to practice outside before we play."

Iowa faces Pittsburgh tomorrow at noon, Notre Dame on Saturday at 9 a.m., and West Virginia on Sunday at 8 a.m. All times are Central.

Big Ten Big East 2012 logo

For the Hawkeyes, it is a chance to see what it is made of against solid competition. Iowa knows what it will get from its two aces, Hippen and junior Matt Dermody.

"They are 1A and 1B," said Dahm. "Matt has made tremendous progress as a pitcher, and we feel like he has a chance to be a dominant type of guy for us. Jarred, of course, has been in our rotation for three years as our Friday starter. He is one of the premier pitchers in our league."

Hippen has started 38 career games. He was named second team All-Big Ten a year ago, for the second straight season, after tossing four complete games and one complete game shutout. Hippen nearly threw a perfect game, allowing only one hit at Minnesota (April 29).

Dermody, a 2011 Academic All-Big Ten selection, recorded 75 strikeouts a year ago, which tied for the 10th most in a season in Iowa history and led the Big Ten. He tossed 84.2 innings, which ranked as 13th most in school history and ranked eighth in the conference. Dermody was selected in the 29th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies.

The strength of the Iowa team will be the pitching staff.

"I have challenged this pitching staff to be the best pitching staff, not only since we have been here, but the best pitching staff in a long time here at Iowa," said Dahm.

"It is a nice combination of veterans who have played a lot and some very talented young guys. We have a chance to have a real nice ball club. If we continue to get better every day, we have a chance to be a very solid team with some very good pitching. If we develop like we can, we have a chance to do very well for ourselves and reach our goals."

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