Feb. 2014

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43 Heller doesn't have a clear every day catcher on the 2014 roster, but he believes, collectively, the team will have a strong presence behind the plate with Kenyon, junior Joe Tellez and sophomores Blake Hickman and Jimmy Frankos splitting time. Hickman has the most returning Division I experience, having caught four games last season, but Kenyon is the dark horse favorite to maximize the Hawkeyes' offensive potential. e senior hit .307 with eight doubles in 2013 to go along with 16 RBIs and 16 runs scored as a junior. Two of the three spots in Iowa's starting weekend rotation appear to be set with the return of junior le- hander Sasha Kuebel and the addition of sophomore right-hander Tyler Peyton. e third spot in the rotation could depend on the health of sophomore right-hander Calvin Matthews. Junior Nick Hibbing (RHP), junior Taylor Kaufman (LHP) and Hickman (RHP) are penciled in as Iowa's top relief options, but Hibbing and Kaufman are both candidates to be summoned to the starting rotation. Hibbing went 3-3 with a 3.90 ERA as a sophomore with four saves, while Kaufman went 3-3 with a team- low 2.68 ERA. Hickman has made the transition to the mound and has a power arm, throwing in the low-to- mid 90s. e Hawkeyes will play a challenging 53-game schedule that features 15 contests against 2013 NCAA Tournament teams and 22 games at Duane Banks Field. Heller wants to see his team get off to a strong start to set itself up for the Big Ten season. "If we can get off to a good start with the number of experienced players we have, we have a chance to roll for a while and build confidence," said Heller. "We have a difficult nonconference schedule, but it will prepare us for Big Ten play. "is team has the opportunity to surprise some people and have a strong showing in the Big Ten. We're looking forward to getting out there, competing and winning some games." 2014 Iowa Baseball Preview By James Allan I t may be Rick Heller's first season as the University of Iowa head baseball coach, but that doesn't mean he is tempering his expectations. With eight starting positional players, eight pitchers and 20 letterwinners back from last season's squad, Heller and Co. are looking for big things in 2014. "With as many returning players as we have, my expectations for this group are high," said Heller, who was tabbed as Iowa's 20th head baseball coach in July 2013. "I feel we're going to be strong defensively and have the potential to be strong on the mound. "Offensively, we've made good improvements over the winter and have a chance to be solid at the plate. Hopefully we'll improve our power numbers (two home runs in 2013), and we should be able to take advantage of our speed, which is our strength." e Hawkeyes will be battled-tested in the infield with starters returning at every position. For the third-straight year, juniors Jake Yacinich and Jake Mangler will lead Iowa up the middle at shortstop and second base, respectively. Junior Nick Day is back for his second full season at the hot corner, and seniors Bryan Niedbalski and Trevor Kenyon return at first base. Iowa also knows what it has in the outfield with a talented trio of upperclassmen back in the fold, headlined by junior Eric Toole, a second-team All- Big Ten selection in 2013. Toole batted .412 in Big Ten play as a sophomore and his 12 stolen bases led the league. He hit .337 with 32 runs and 22 steals on the season. "It's hard not to be excited about Eric Toole," said Heller. "He's a guy that can run as well as anybody in our league, has a great feel and instincts stealing bases and is an outstanding leadoff guy. To top it off, he's one of the top outfielders in the Big Ten. He's a great player."

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