March 15, 2013
- Hickman Thriving After Slow Start
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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 — Freshman Blake Hickman had a coming-of-age moment for the University of Iowa baseball team in his 13th game as a Hawkeye.
With the score tied 4-4 in the top of the 12th inning against West Virginia at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., Hickman stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and one out. He produced, roping a fastball up the middle for a game-winning, two-run single to knock in the go-ahead runs in an eventual 6-4 Iowa victory.
“Coming into that at-bat I was really confident in myself,” said Hickman. “The team had been rooting me on the whole game, and I had a double in my first at-bat. I was really confident in my approach in going up the middle all the way, and it worked for me.”
“We’re excited about the progress Blake has made. He is going to make some freshman mistakes, but we can live with those because of the positives he brings with his attitude, work ethic and drive to succeed.”
UI head coach Jack Dahm
UI head coach Jack Dahm called Hickman’s RBI single a “huge hit,” but it didn’t surprise him the slightest.
“There is nobody more driven and more competitive than Blake Hickman,” said Dahm. “We felt very good about the matchup. He jumped on a fastball and ripped it.”
The game-winning single capped off a 2-for-5, two-run, two-RBI performance for Hickman against the Mountaineers. The two hits extended his hitting streak to five games and pushed his average to .389 (7-of-18) during the stretch. He had two multi-hit games during Iowa’s 3-0 weekend in Florida.
“I am seeing more pitches and talking to (hitting) coach (Zach) Dillon on my approach,” said Hickman. “It helps a lot being able to focus on each at-bat.”
The hot stretch has boosted Hickman’s confidence, but during the opening seven games of his Iowa career, the Chicago native was at the other end of the spectrum.
Joining the Hawkeyes as a highly-touted recruit out of Simeon Academy in Chicago and being a 20th round pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, Hickman wasn’t accustomed to struggling. Over his first seven games, he had two hits in 21 at-bats for a .095 batting average.
“There was a lot of frustration because I am not used to starting out so slow,” said Hickman. “I talked to the older guys and they told me to relax and keep competing. Coach Dahm always says to keep competing, and it will come sooner or later.”
It came indeed.
During his five-game hitting streak, Hickman improved his average by 136 points. He is currently hitting .231, but he has five hits in his last 13 at-bats with five runs and two RBIs.
“We’re excited about the progress Blake has made,” said Dahm. “He is going to make some freshman mistakes, but we can live with those because of the positives he brings with his attitude, work ethic and drive to succeed.”
Iowa returns to action Saturday, facing Nebraska-Omaha in the first of a three-game series at Eck Stadium in Wichita, Kan. Game times are set for 1 p.m. (CT) Saturday and Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday.