The Hawkeye Nine dug themselves a large hole in the conference standings by losing three out of four games against Michigan last weekend. Reed Pawelk pitched well in the series opener, but received no support from the offense in a 3-0 loss. A double by 1B Brad Carlson and a single by SS Jeff Gremley were the extent of the Iowa Offense. The offense was only slightly better in game two as they mustered four total hits in a 6-0 loss. 3B Ian Mattiace has two of the hits, but he also had two errors at the hot corner.
Game three saw the Iowa bats come to life as they scored seven runs in the first three innings and held on to win, 7-4. C Brad Husz had two hits while six others registered one. Reliever Nick Jensen made the lead stand as he pitched three scoreless innings for the save. In the series finale, P Steve Sharpe contained the Michigan Offense enough to keep the game close, but the Iowa bats were quiet in the 4-1 loss. Mattiace had two hits in the loss.
Iowa was able to turn their fortunes around on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was not an easy task. Freshman P Tim Gudex struck out 13 batters in his Hawkeye debut, but the team was down 3-1 in the 6th inning before scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good. Jensen, once again, came in to record the save, and did it the old fashion way by pitching three scoreless innings. A starter last season, Nick has a team leading ERA of 1.23 this season.
Even though Jensen has pitched very well in longer relief spots this season, it is unlikely that he will move back into the rotation because of his flexibility and the potential that he gives the bullpen. "He really can give us a big boost," according to Coach Broghamer. "If the situation requires it, he can go long, he can go short, he can come in during the 3rd and finish the game, or he can come in during the 7th or 8th and close it out. You can also throw him for an inning or two on Friday and always bring him back for more work on Sunday and he can still be effective. Not everyone is capable of that. It is good to know you have someone in the bullpen that can come in and get you over the hump and keep you in a ballgame."
Both the weekday games were typical early spring games in that the temperature and wind conditions were less than stellar, yet the Hawkeye Nine came from behind and won both games when other teams might have mailed it in so that they could get out of the cold. Bradley had 14 hits on Wednesday, yet the Iowa pitchers were able to hold them to three runs, thanks in part to three double plays. Iowa only had five hits, but were able to score four runs as a result of a big three-run rally in the 6th inning. In what has become more typical of late, Brad Carlson was the big hitter that made it happen as he tripled to score DH Andy Jansen, and then scored on an infield error.
After struggling last season with only 3 home runs and 17 RBIs, Brad has rebounded after a slow start to post a .250 average with 3 home runs and 12 RBIs so far. In addition, he has 7 doubles and a triple. After watching Carlson's statistics decline after his freshman year stats of .367, 21 HRs, and 71 RBIs, Coach Broghamer has seen some progress from Brad this year. "He hit the ball about as hard against Michigan as anyone has all year, but some of the balls were held up because he hit them into the teeth of the wind. I think he is swinging the bat about as well now as he has in two years."
Indiana is also hitting pretty well right now. Coming into the weekend series, the Hoosiers are hitting .355 as a team, which is almost a hundred points higher than Iowa. Vasili Spanos leads the way for the IU attack as he is hitting .462 with 10 HRs and 40 RBIs. In addition, Kennard Jones is hitting .434 with 42 runs scored while Mark Calkins is hitting .425. Eric Blakeley is ONLY hitting .364, but already has 35 RBIs. "In the past Indiana has been known more as a running team," said Broghamer, "and even though they have run a lot so far this year, their hitting really jumps out at you."
Coach Broghamer has named Reed Pawelk as the starter for Friday's game, while Steve Sharpe will start the Sunday game. They will both have a tough task in keeping the IU Offense in check for the nine-inning contests, but Iowa does have some history on its side. Although the two teams have not played each other since 1996, the Hawkeyes still hold a 58-40 all-time series lead. It is going to be tough playing one of the hottest teams in the conference on their home field, but the Hawks need to at least split this series to stay within shouting distance of .500 in conference play.