May 20, 2014
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.
By JAMES ALLAN
OMAHA, Neb. -- Now that the University of Iowa baseball team is in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes are giving it their best shot.
"Once you get into the tournament, anything can happen," said UI head coach Rick Heller, who led Iowa to its first Big Ten Tournament berth since 2010. "One bad outing by a pitcher and you're able to take advantage of it and you're able to get things rolling."
The Hawkeyes open play at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on Wednesday at 5 p.m. (CT) against top-seeded Indiana, a squad that won the Big Ten Conference regular-season title with a 21-3 record. The Hoosiers have won 23-of-26 games since the beginning of April and sit 38-13 overall.
"From top-to-bottom, Indiana is one of the best teams in the country," said Heller. "Everyone likes to talk about their offense, but if you look at their pitching, their statistics are unbelievable. Their top guys are as good as they get, so it's not going to be an easy game. They do everything well, there are no weaknesses."
"We have to take care of us. If we get too wrapped up in what Indiana is doing and lose focus, that's when we get in trouble. We have to play from within, go out and execute, and do what we know we can do."
UI junior Jake Yacinich
UI junior Jake Yacinich knows what Indiana brings to the table, but he says the Hawkeyes need to focus on what they can control.
"We have to take care of us," said Yacinich, who ranks second in the Big Ten with a .369 batting average. "If we get too wrapped up in what Indiana is doing and lose focus, that's when we get in trouble. We have to play from within, go out and execute, and do what we know we can do."
With the Hawkeyes manning a roster with zero Division I postseason experience, junior Eric Toole says it's important for the team to enter the tournament believing in themselves.
"We have to take a positive attitude into this week," said Toole. "We have to think we can beat Indiana and not just lie down. We have to have the mindset that we can win.
"Everyone's excited about playing in the tournament for a first time. We'll be ready."
Heller calls the eight-team Big Ten field "well-balanced" and he believes every team is capable of winning the five-day tournament. For the Hawkeyes to be the last team standing, Heller says it will take good, clean baseball and strong pitching.
"If you can find a way to win games one or two, you've put yourself in a pretty good position," said Heller. "To get to the championship and win it, we're going to have to play a clean slate and get great pitching from our top two guys."
Junior Sasha Kuebel (6-4, 4.43 ERA) will take the mound against Indiana left-hander Joey DeNato (11-1, 1.83 ERA). The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network with Kevin Kugler and Scott Pose on the call.
"We have to enjoy the moment and take this tournament one game at a time," said junior Jake Mangler. "It's cliché, but that's what it is all about. We're going to enjoy it, take it one game at a time, and play to the best of our ability."