IOWA CITY — He didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Jack Dahm all but dismissed it.
Still you couldn’t help notice the three words he had scrawled with a Sharpie on the inside of the bill of his Iowa baseball cap: “Shock The World.”
“It’s just something I said to the guys one day,” the 10th-year head coach said with a laugh. “It kind of stuck with a couple of our younger guys ... It’s not really our motto, but we want to try and get our guys motivated every day.
“We want to have that chip on our shoulder. We’re a program where our recruiting the last couple years has been a lot better. We’ve got some talent, it’s young talent, and I think it’s time we can do some things here.”
Getting back to the Big Ten Conference tournament would be a start. Iowa finished second in 2010 but didn’t qualify in 2011 or last season, when it went 23-27 overall.
Dahm has just two winning seasons in his decade at Iowa and has had only three teams make it to the Big Ten tournament. The 2013 season opens next week in Tennessee with three games against Austin Peay.
“No, not at all,” he said, when asked if he feels pressure to get to the Big Ten tourney. “This is a fun team to be around. As long as we continue to get better, that will take care of itself.”
Five sophomores are expected to be in the Hawkeyes’ most-days lineup, including third baseman Nick Day of Solon. Lefties Sasha Kuebel and Matt Dermody provide experience as starting pitchers, while Dahm said he thinks he has a strong bullpen, led by closer Nick Hibbing, a 6-foot-6 righty.
“Play pitch to pitch,” said sophomore shortstop Jake Yacinich of West Des Moines Dowling. “I think at times last year, we’d be looking toward the ninth inning and we’d only be in the sixth. Play that pitch, take care of that play and take it from there.”
Iowa has 25 home games this season, beginning March 15 against Nebraska-Omaha. There’s a new-look coaching staff with Zach Dillon in his first year as hitting coach and longtime former Illinois State head coach Jim Brownlee tutoring the pitchers.
His son, Ryan, left Iowa in the offseason to take the head coach’s job at Western Illinois.“I like what we have,” Dahm said. “Their attitudes have been outstanding, they’re practicing hard. It’s about that time now where we want to get outside and get a chance to play somebody else.”