Nick Hibbing's amazing streak nears three months
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Could the secret to Nick Hibbing's amazing control as the most dominant Iowa relief pitcher be … rocking out to heavy-metal music?
"(Other pitchers) make fun of me for listening to the hard-core metal stuff before the game," Hibbing said with a laugh. "Everybody kind of has their own thing that gets them going, and that happens to be mine."
Whatever the senior is doing, Hawkeye baseball supporters hope he doesn't change a thing.
Hibbing has been an essential piece to Iowa's amazing run to a 34-12 record (15-3 in the Big Ten Conference) and No. 15 national ranking. And he's assembled a hard-to-believe streak: He has not issued a walk in his last 17 appearances, which covers 28 innings and almost three months.
"I've been able to fill up the zone a lot this year," Hibbing said. "It's something I've really worked on."
The only two walks Hibbing surrendered occurred Feb. 13 in the season-opening 5-4 loss vs. Kansas State. Overall, he's assembled a 2.10 ERA while allowing just 22 baserunners in 30 innings.
He recorded a win and a save in an April 26 doubleheader sweep of Nebraska.
"He's been one of the great stories of this team," second-year coach Rick Heller said. "He's made a complete 180 in everything — attitude, work ethic, being a great teammate."
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound native of Lindenhurst, Ill., came to Iowa as a tweener under previous coach Jack Dahm — undecided on starting vs. relieving. He found a home in the bullpen, and his 14 career saves are tied for fourth in school history.
"Coming out of the bullpen, it's all about an attitude," Hibbing said. "I've learned how to do that in the proper way."
One of Heller's great luxuries is that Hibbing can provide extended relief — as he did with three scoreless innings to finish Sunday's 2-0 shutout of Michigan — or be a lock-down guy in the ninth.
"He's a big reason while we're still in the race," Heller said.
UP NEXT: IOWA BASEBALL
- The matchup: Iowa (34-12, 15-3 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (19-26, 7-11 Big Ten) at Duane Banks Field
- Game times, TV: 6:05 p.m. Friday (BTN Plus); 2 p.m. Saturday (BTN Plus); 1 p.m. Sunday (BTN). (Follow @UIBaseball on Twitter for weather delays or time changes)
- Promotions: UI baseball alumni and their families will be granted free admission all weekend. After Saturday's game, fans are welcome to watch "The Sandlot" on the new video board. Free buckets of popcorn will be distributed to the first 200 fans. Iowa's nine seniors will be honored prior to Sunday's game.
- Series notes: The Hawkeyes trail Illinois (16-1) by 11/2 games in the standings. ... Minnesota is in ninth place in the league, and needs to crack the top eight in order to reach the Big Ten tournament it's hosting at Target Field May 20-24. ... Iowa is 14-3 at Banks Field. ... The Hawkeyes have won a school-record seven consecutive Big Ten series. ... Hawkeye senior Eric Toole needs two singles to break Mike McQuillan's school record of 196 in that career category.
- Coach Rick Heller says: "They don't want to be that team that has to host when you're not in the (Big Ten) tournament. They've got six games left, they have a lot of pride and they traditionally have one of the best programs in the league. We're going to get their best effort, for sure."