May 9, 2014
"Things are going good right now, but we have a tough weekend coming up with Illinois coming to town. That's my No. 1 concern."
Kuebel has been Iowa's most consistent performer for the last month, going 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA over his last five appearances. It was an April 6 start against Indiana that served as Kuebel's wake-up call when he was tagged for five runs on seven hits in just 1/3 of an inning -- the shortest outing of his career.
"You never want to go out in the first inning like that," said Kuebel. "It is something I don't ever want to repeat again."
"Once you start rolling, you want to keep it going. You know you can do it and your biggest concern is to keep getting stronger and build off what you've done each week. Things are going good right now, but we have a tough weekend coming up with Illinois coming to town. That's my No. 1 concern."
UI junior Sasha Kuebel
Kuebel was thrown back into action two days later, and he responded. He allowed one run on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings in relief in a 5-3 Iowa victory over Kansas on April 8. On short rest, he followed with Iowa's first complete game shutout since 2011, scattering eight hits over nine innings, leading the Hawkeyes to a 5-0 win at Northwestern just four days later.
After being tabbed as the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on April 14, it was déjà vu for Kuebel against Minnesota, but he weathered the storm. He gave up four first-inning runs and one in the second April 19 against the Gophers before finding his grove and leading Iowa to an 11-5 victory. Kuebel picked up his fifth and sixth victories, going seven innings in a 5-3 win over South Dakota State (April 26) before tossing his second complete game in a 17-2 win at Ohio State (May 4).
With Friday night starter Calvin Mathews sidelined with a shoulder injury and Sunday starter Tyler Peyton working his way back into form after missing a start with muscle tightness, Kuebel has been the stablizing force in the Hawkeye rotation.
"We need more guys to step up and the next guys in line need to take it by the reigns and go with it," said UI pitching coach Scott Brickman. "Sasha has been the leader of that group for us on the pitching staff.
"He is a guy we rely on and even if he does have hiccups early on in the first or second (innings), he still has the ability to get 6-7-8 innings deep. We want him to go out and do his thing, and when he does that, it's the end result we want."
Kuebel takes pride in taking the ball during the second game of every weekend series and giving his team a chance to succeed.
"I am always happy to get the ball on Saturday's and my No. 1 concern is to give our team the best chance to win," he said. "That's what it has always been and my mentality doesn't change. I know I am pitching on the same day, and I am using that opportunity as a way to get a win for the team."
Iowa begins a three-game series against Illinois today at 4 p.m. (CT) at Duane Banks Field. Kuebel will take the mound Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) in a game that will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.