Kaufman Thriving as 2-way Player

Feb. 26, 2013

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 Taylor Kaufman is back in his comfort zone for the University of Iowa baseball team, now that he is getting an opportunity to once again perform as a two-way player.

“It was tough for me last year not doing both because of the competitive drive I have and always wanting to do everything,” said Kaufman, a 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher/outfielder. “It is kind of how I am. It’s nice to be able to do it again.”

Kaufman’s versatility was on full display during Iowa’s 6-2 10-inning victory over New Mexico on Feb. 23 at the Kleberg Bank College Classic. He went 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored, which included a game-clinching two-run double in the 10th inning. He also notched his first victory of the season, allowing zero runs over four innings with three strikeouts in relief.

In his two-way role, Kaufman tries to stay in the moment.

“That’s a huge weekend for us,” he said. “It’s a reminder that if we play like that consistently, which we are capable of doing, we can play with anyone in the country.
UI sophomore Taylor Kaufman

“Pitch-by-pitch, out-by-out, I try to stay in the present,” he said. “”When the time comes, coach (Jim) Brownlee will usually tell me, ‘Hey Taylor, get hot, we might be using you in the next inning or two.’ Then I start switching my focus to some of the batters’ tendencies and how I am going to prepare myself.

“When I am out on the field, I am taking it pitch-by-pitch and concentrating on fielding. When I get into the dugout and I am not hitting, that’s when I am swapping my focus on pitching, how they’re hitting and what I need to do to be successful. I am trying to keep my focus on the present and not do too much, that’s the key.”

The pitching side of the equation was never an issue for Kaufman. As a freshman, he finished with a 3-0 record and a 3.38 ERA over 26.2 innings en route to earning Big Ten all-freshman team honors. But at the plate, Kaufman’s line read: 2 AB, .000, 0 hits.

That was a far cry from the level of production he was accustomed to. As a prep, Kaufman was a four-time all-conference and a three-time all-district and all-state honoree. He batted .568 as a senior with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs, and he posted 21 offensive school records.

After his performance in the opening three-game series against Austin Peay, where he went 1-for-13, Kaufman wasn’t sure if his number would be called again.

“After that first weekend you hope you’re still in the lineup the next game,” said Kaufman. “I told myself to relax… I really can’t get much worse.”

His approach worked, as he finished the second weekend with a .545 batting average, collecting six hits in 11 at-bats. He tallied a pair of multi-hit games to go along with two RBIs and a run scored en route to earning Kleberg Bank College Classic All-Tournament team honors.

“I had a decent first game (1-of-3 against No. 14 Oklahoma) and found a little bit of my swing,” he said. “The next game I seemed to be seeing everything so much better. I was seeing everything right out of the hand.”

After dropping a 3-1 decision to the Sooners in the opener, Iowa posted consecutive victories over New Mexico — a sleeper pick by Baseball America for the College World Series — and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. It was a performance Kaufman says the Hawkeyes can build on.

“That’s a huge weekend for us,” he said. “It’s a reminder that if we play like that consistently, which we are capable of doing, we can play with anyone in the country.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and there are many times when we could have executed better. We have room to get better, which is a good feeling when you beat two solid teams and went toe-to-toe with a nationally-ranked team. We’ll use it as a learning experience and build off it for the future.”