Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

IVL, Hawkeyes help each other

IOWA CITY - The University of Iowa baseball program has been a good provider of talent for the Iowa Valley League over the past several years.

So when Coach Rick Heller needed some rare summer competition for his Hawkeyes to sharpen their skills for a pair of upcoming tournaments,  the IVL players and coaches were more than happy to help out.

The Hawkeyes, fresh off an NCAA Tournament appearance in June, were  selected to represent the United States in the World University Games,  scheduled for Aug. 16-30 in Taipei, Taiwan. Prior to that trip, the Hawkeyes will play in the National Baseball Congress World Series next week in Wichita, Kan.

Hence the need for some tuneup games.

"I called Fritz (Red Top general manager) Kinzenbaw in the winter and  talked to him about it," Heller said after Iowa downed an IVL All-Star team, 7-3, Tuesday night at Duane Banks Field. "They were in the process of making their schedule and they were willing to help us out.

"I played in that league for a long time," Heller continued. "I really appreciate those guys taking their night league off and helping us to prepare to play in the World Games."

The Hawks will play another exhibition game against Red Top of the IVL on Thursday prior to opening play in the NBC World Series on Sunday night.

"Iowa has supported the league and sent players to play in the league," said Red Top manager Adam Sadler, who served as one of the coaches for the IVL All-Stars. "The players have had other opportunities to play in other leagues, but Rick and Coach (Jack) Dahm  before him have always been so supportive of the league.

"They know the quality of the league and I think that is why Rick asked us to do this."

Tuesday's game, played before a good crowd at Banks Field, was  well-played on both sides. Four members of Iowa's starting line-up have been regular participants in the IVL this summer. Approximately a dozen players on the Hawkeyes' 37-player roster have seen action in the IVL.

"It works out great for our kids to play in the league," Heller said.  "We can keep some kids back here if they need to get healthy and they get 2-3 games a week in the Iowa Valley League. It's a good situation  for us."

Iowa jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second on a double from Tanner Wetrich and singles by Kyle Crowl and Mitchell Boe, all coming after two were out.

The IVL stars tied the game in the top of the fourth. Sam Mrstik walked, stole second and scored on Toran Shahidi's double to left.  Nick Hayden then singled home pinch-runner Nick Day with the tying run.

From that point on it was all Hawkeyes. Crowl singled home Wetrich in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Hawkeyes the lead for good. Iowa added another run in the fifth, two more in the sixth and a single run in the eighth.

One interesting match-up occurred in the top of the eighth when Iowa junior Sammy Lizarraga was on the mound and his older brother, Chico, was brought back into the game to hit. Little brother got the better of the match-up, striking out older brother with an impressive fastball.

Heller was impressed with the way his Hawkeyes played, considering the  lack of actual practice time leading up to the game.

"I thought we played pretty well, a clean baseball game," he said. "We really just got all of our guys here in the last three or four days. We are nowhere near where we need to be, but this was a good start."

Sadler's Red Top team will provide the opposition on Thursday for the  Hawkeyes.

"We're going to be a little short-handed," he said. "It's hard for some of our guys to get there for a mid-week game and we have some guys back playing with Iowa.

"We've got a couple of players to fill in and help us out," Sadler added. "It's tough anyway at this time of the year with mid-week games and our Sunday games and getting ready for our state tournament, but I know we will give a good effort."


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