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Iowa’s Sam Petersen earns time on the baseball field with move to outfield
Hawkeye freshman made 2 diving catches, scored team’s lone run in 10-1 loss to Central Michigan
IOWA CITY — Sam Petersen is an infielder by trade.
When it became apparent his opportunity to crack the University of Iowa lineup, he made the move to the outfield.
The freshman left fielder made his ninth start of the season and produced two dazzling catches in the Hawkeyes’ 10-1 loss to Central Michigan Saturday at Duane Banks Field. The teams will finish the three-game series Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Iowa had won three straight and five of its last six games before Saturday, including a victory over a ranked Texas Tech team and a 7-4 triumph Friday over Central Michigan.
“We need to be a lot tougher and when things start to go downhill somebody needs to step up and stop it,” Iowa Coach Rick Heller said. “I would tell you I thought we were getting over that hump these last four or five games. It was very apparent today that we haven’t.”
Petersen provided a few of Iowa’s warm, feel-good moments during a cold, windy and miserable day that saw fans in winter garb and blankets, trying to tolerate 30-degree temperatures and a constant wind from left to right field.
Petersen, who is still listed as an infielder on the team roster, made two highlight-reel defensive plays. He robbed the Chippewas of two hits with diving stabs on opposite-field tailing liners.
The first came off the bat of leadoff hitter Mario Camilletti to start the fame. He made a similar play against Garrett Navarra.
“On a day like today, it’s about anticipation,” Petersen said. “You can’t trust your instincts today because the ball is going to move different than you’ve seen your whole life. Just making sure you’re locked in on a day like today.
“The ball is hit low it’s going to stay low. Those were the two plays I made.”
Petersen said he didn’t play outfield for Ballard High School. He had a feeling of where he might fit for Iowa and transitioned to the grass for club competition.
“In high school, I played mostly infield, but I was tossed into the outfield for travel ball weekends,” Petersen said. “I kind of had a feeling I was going out there when I got here.
“They moved me out there quick. I’ve had six months of straight outfield. I’m just kind of starting to feel comfortable out there.”
Heller said Petersen had the chance to earn an infield spot in the fall. The best way to make an immediate contribution was to use his gifts in the outfield.
“He needed more work than it was going to take for him to be able to play (infield) this year,” Heller said. “His best chance to play this year was in the outfield with his speed and athleticism. You can see that.”
Petersen was one of two Hawkeyes to reach base multiple times and scored their lone run. He improved his .324 on-base percentage, earning walks in his first two at-bats to give him six this year.
Petersen actually accounted for two of the Hawkeyes’ first three base runners when he reached to lead off the fifth.
Petersen reached second after a Brett McCleary base on balls. Michael Seegers, who led Iowa with two hits, managed the Hawkeyes’ first base hit to chase Petersen home.
Petersen echoed Heller’s sentiment about the overall performance.
“Obviously, I felt good early on,” Petersen said. “Especially a game like today, we have to have guys step up when we’re losing like this. Nobody stepped up and that includes me, so you have to take responsibility for that. We didn’t play well enough.”
Central Michigan (10-9) already built a 9-0 lead by the time Iowa got on the scoreboard. The Chippewas used a Jakob Morse sacrifice fly and RBI singles from Navarra and Danny Wuestenfeld in consecutive at-bats during the four-run third. Robby Morgan belted a two-run home run and Camilletti added a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Free passes hurt the Hawkeyes. Iowa pitchers allowed 11 walks and hit one batter. Iowa starter Dylan Nedved gave up seven runs, all earned, walked three and allowed four hits in three innings. Marcus Morgan struck out three in one inning of relief and Brody Brecht struck out four in the final two innings.
“Dylan, most of the time, gives us a chance. He hasn’t had very many bad outings since he’s been here,” Heller said. “Unfortunately, today, was one. I don’t know if it was the wind or what it was, but he just couldn’t hit the corners. He was just missing. I didn’t think he was missing bad, but then when he came over the middle of the plate they hit him today. Most teams don’t hit him.
“He just happened to have a bad day and we fell behind. After that, there were a lot of free bases and some disappointing things and embarrassing things you never want to see. We just didn’t play very well after that.”
The Hawkeyes (11-9) struggled at the plate, despite forcing deep counts and against All-America right-hander Andrew Taylor, who struck out seven in three scoreless innings before giving way to reliever Clayton Brock.
“It’s easy to go to the fact that we were unsuccessful, but there’s a reason he was an All-American,” Heller said. “It’s not easy to be an All-American. He looked really good today.”
Keaton Anthony had a double in the seventh and Anthony Mangano and Ben Wilmes had consecutive singles in the eighth against Navarra.
Iowa just never warmed up, fanning 16 total times against four Chippewa pitchers.
“I thought we battled in some at-bats, but we got punched out. We struck out seven of the first nine times,” Heller said. “Offensively, that set the tone for us. Once we fell behind it felt like it was just over.”