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Brennen Dorighi is the dude for Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team
Graduate transfer first baseman has had a terrific season for team that begins Big Ten Conference Tournament play Tuesday morning
IOWA CITY — When Keaton Anthony stopped playing baseball games for the University of Iowa three weeks ago, you wondered how that would affect the Hawkeyes offense.
It really hasn’t.
Iowa has scored 84 runs in nine games without Anthony, an all-America candidate who apparently has been caught up in an investigation of two-dozen plus Hawkeyes student-athletes into gambling, which is against NCAA regulations. There is a criminal component to the investigation as well, believed to be about possible gambling by underage persons.
Back to the baseball thing, that’s nine runs a game the Hawkeyes are averaging the last three weeks. They’ve got a real solid order top to bottom that seemingly can start a rally anytime.
And they’ve got Brennen Dorighi. The graduate transfer from Wofford has been a revelation this season.
“I think a big reason why we’re able to show up is his maturity and what he brings to the table. I really do,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said. “I was just talking to (assistant coaches) about how lucky we are that he is here, and how glad we are that we have him. Because that’s what you see from a guy like that, that has that kind of leadership and maturity. A professional approach to the game.
“He’s quiet, he’s confident, and that rubs off on people.”
Dorighi was an all-Southern Conference guy last year at Wofford, so Heller knew he wasn’t getting a slouch. But as Iowa’s everyday first baseman, Dorighi is hitting .351 in 56 games, has 19 doubles, a team-leading 13 home runs and 60 RBIs.
He also has walked a team-leading 36 times. Since Anthony has been out, the Colorado native is hitting .333 but more importantly has driven in 16 runs.
“It’s even better than what I expected. He’s a really good hitter,” Heller said. “To me, he’s a guy who can play professional baseball for a long time. He gives you a really good at-bat, doesn’t chase a lot. Hits all pitches, hits good velocity, can go both directions. He’s just a pro hitter.
“It’s surprising to me he didn’t get drafted last year, when you watch him day in and day out ... What he’s done this season should pay dividends for him on draft day this year. I’ve had a bunch of calls from scouts. It seems it took them a while, but they’re like ‘Man, he’s a really good hitter.’ I’m like, yeah, no kidding.”
Iowa (39-13) begins play at the Big Ten Conference Tournament at 10 a.m. Tuesday against Michigan (26-26) in a matchup of the tourney’s third and sixth seeds, respectively. The double-elimination tournament, at least until Sunday’s winner-take-all final at 2 p.m., runs all week at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Expect Marcus Morgan to be Iowa’s starting pitcher Tuesday since he threw this past Thursday at Northwestern and would be on normal rest. The Iowa City West grad has seemed to turn a corner in his development the last month of the season or so and has a 4-2 record and 4.14 ERA.
He, Ty Langenberg and Brody Brecht have been Iowa’s three weekend starting pitchers, though they’ve all rotated days throughout the season. Brecht, who recently went from Friday to Sunday starter because of severe control issues, was named Monday the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, after a start against Northwestern in which he allowed one hit and one walk in six innings and struck out nine.
“That’s a good question, one I struggled with mightily the first 35 games,” Heller said, when asked about the difficulty of finding the right combination when it comes to his rotation. “I’ve kind of come to grips with it that it’s just the way it is. I’m finding out that not having a Friday night guy that goes and gets you, even on his bad days, to the seventh. That’s something Adam Mazur, Trenton Wallace and those guys were able to do.
“It ages you faster, basically. It’s a lot tougher, really puts the pressure on you to know when to make that call, make that decision to go to the bullpen. Because you’re always going to want to milk it a little bit. Just think about all the Friday games we’ve won this year in uncharacteristic fashion that way. But that’s this year’s team. It’s what it is. That’s who we are.”
Iowa goes into this week with an RPI of 32, which puts it in pretty good position, it would seem, to gain an at-large NCAA berth if it doesn’t win the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland won the Big Ten’s regular-season championship and has an RPI of 45.
Indiana finished second and has an RPI of 27.
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