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Rick Heller gives updates on the Hawkeyes' baseball team after Saturday's fall scrimmage. Dargan Southard/Press-Citizen

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — After leading Iowa to its most successful stretch in program history, Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller has been rewarded with a contract extension, the school announced Thursday afternoon.

Heller’s deal now runs through 2024.

"I am proud to be part of such an outstanding, team-oriented athletics department and university," the Iowa baseball coach said in a school release. "With the fantastic leadership of Gary Barta and President (Bruce) Harreld, our baseball program has grown significantly in the last five years and we look forward to working together to keep it moving forward.

"I am humbled that Gary and Bruce have given me the opportunity to be a Hawkeye for a long time. It's a privilege to go to work each day with such an amazing group of coaches, staff and student-athletes."

After taking over in 2014, Heller has guided Iowa to its most productive four-year stretch in program history, leading the Hawkeyes to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths (2015, 2017) and a Big Ten Tournament title last season.

FROM JUNE: 'Definition of a team': Hawkeyes' relentless grit continues program's upward movement

Before Heller’s arrival, Iowa had just three regional appearances since the tournament began in 1947 and none since 1990. Decades of futility often filled the gaps in between.

But Heller has led the Hawkeyes to 140 wins and has also helped generate 15 MLB draft picks during his Iowa City tenure, the program’s highest figure during any four-year stretch. Heller has also coached five All-Americans, a unanimous Big Ten player of the year and at least one first-team All-Big Ten selection each season. 

FROM JUNE: Leistikow: Iowa baseball's Rick Heller deserves a big raise — and soon

"The progress this program has made in four seasons under Rick has been incredible," Barta said in the release. "Rick has changed the culture from day one with the win, graduate, and do it right principles at the forefront. We're excited to be able to reward Rick with this contract extension to keep him in Iowa City for the foreseeable future.

"You can feel the excitement and buzz surrounding the program throughout the state. We are excited to continue building on that and are looking forward to the 2018 baseball season."

After a successful 2017 season, expectations remain high in 2018 despite some key MLB draft losses. The Hawkeyes open Feb. 16 against Toledo as part of the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series in Kissimmee, Florida. 

Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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