Feb. 11, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sophomore Nick Day spent his freshman season on the University of Iowa baseball team as the understudy to third baseman Chett Zeise. Zeise has since graduated, so Day is ready to assume the lead role.
Day appeared in 16 games with eight starts in 2012 — all of which came in the outfield. Without many options to back-up Zeise, Day spent time learning under the former Hawkeye senior.
“We didn’t have another third baseman, and I played infield in high school, so they stuck me at third base,” said Day, who prepped at Solon (Iowa) High School. “I was comfortable enough there that I was able to slide into the position this season.”
Day says the opportunity to work under a senior during his first Hawkeye go-round was beneficial.
“Having a senior in front of you when you’re a freshman is great, because he (Zeise) knew the game really well and really helped me out of where I was supposed to be and when,” said Day. “He was one of our most solid infielders, so learning from him really helped me progress as a third baseman.”
Day also spent the summer gaining experience at the hot corner while playing for the Quincy Gems in the Prospect League.
“I played a lot of third base over the summer, and that really helped me gain confidence,” said Day.
UI head coach Jack Dahm noticed a more confident Day when he returned to Iowa City for the fall.
“He used his summer to get better,” said Dahm. “He improved in all areas of the game. He’s a great athlete and can play anywhere on the field. His reactions at third base are outstanding. Some of the reactionary plays he made this fall, you don’t see made every day in the big leagues.”
Day credits his reaction time with the skill set he acquired growing up as a four-sport standout in high school.
“It comes from playing a lot of sports growing up,” he said. “I didn’t focus on one thing. I feel like I have good reaction time, but I could be better. There are always things to work on to get better and help the team out.”
After getting just 23 at-bats and hitting .217 in his first collegiate season, Day made sure to utilize the opportunity of playing every day this summer to get better at the plate. He batted .281 with 50 hits in 178 at-bats, finishing with eight doubles and six home runs. He also had 43 RBIs and 40 runs scored.
“I had a limited number of at-bats my freshman year because I had guys in front of me,” said Day. “Playing every day this summer really helped. You’re seeing guys that are Division I pitchers every time out and getting 200 at-bats is really going to help me.”
Day says the Hawkeyes are bringing a new attitude to the plate in 2012, focusing on grinding and not giving up at-bats.
“We’re focused on battling more at the plate,” he said. “One of our things has been a mentality of going up there saying we’re not going to get beat by this pitcher. We have to be better and tougher. We’re really focused on our mentality and being focused in the box.”
The Hawkeyes open the 2013 season with a three-game series on Feb. 15-17 in Clarksville, Tenn., against 2012 NCAA Regional qualifier Austin Peay.