By Shane Carney, The Gazette
IOWA CITY– Iowa baseball Coach Jack Dahm will be looking to his experienced senior leaders to help ease his talented freshman class into the spring season.
Leadership from Iowa’s seniors will be pivotal as the Hawks begin their 2012 campaign on a 16-game road trip.
“We need some guys to step-up and play well early for us,” said Coach Dahm at the Iowa baseball media day Thursday afternoon. “We have got 12 seniors and they can all play a major role for our program.
“Then we also have a lot of other talented young guy – we could have a lot of freshman in the line-up on a daily basis also.”
The senior pitching staff will be expected to anchor a team that is looking to improve on a 20-29 2011 season.
Senior pitcher Jarrod Hippen was named to the 2012 Big Ten preseason all-conference first team. Hippen (4-5 in 2011) believes the team needs to get back to playing the game pitch-by-pitch, which he says is a philosophy the Hawks failed to do last year.
“It’s something we need to get back to and when we were doing that we were playing real well,” said Hippen who finished with a 3.12 ERA last season.
“We need to win series. That is our goal to go out and get one every weekend.”
Coach Dahm will also have an experienced infield with seniors covering each bag. Two of which were the Hawks top performers at the plate. Second baseman Mike McQuillan returns to the line-up in his fourth year starting. McQuillan hit .330 and drove in a team best 31 runs.
Senior third baseman Chett Ziese returns as well; he had a .275 batting average and collected 19 RBI. McQuillan and Ziese tied each other for most home runs in 2011.
If Iowa faces another challenging season riddled with injuries, the Hawks will be able to utilize a very talented and enthusiastic freshman class.
“They are challenging each other, they are a very competitive group,” said Coach Dahm. “They have been fitting in really well.”
Two guys in that freshman class will be looking at getting some playing time right away. Sasha Kuedel was last year’s Missouri State Pitcher of the Year and looks likely to get the nod for the third starting spot.
Then Eric Toole will take to the outfield for the Hawks. Toole ‘s older brother Justin once played for the black and gold and has been sharing advice with Eric.
“He said the pitching was going to take a little while to get used to. And since he played here at Iowa he let me know what to expect,” said Eric.
The Hawks have under a week left to prepare for the season. Iowa will be competing next weekend in the annual Big Ten/Big East Challenge. They will travel to St. Petersburg, Fla. to face Pittsburgh on Friday, Notre Dame on Saturday, and wrap up with West Virginia Sunday.