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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The 2017 University of Iowa baseball season was a championship grind.
The Hawkeyes finished in a tie for fourth in the Big Ten Conference regular-season standings, earning a No. 5 seed at the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa went 4-1 during a four-day stretch, knocking off three higher seeds in the process, to claim the first tournament title in school history and earn a spot in NCAA Regionals for a second time in three seasons.
“It was a grind this year; we came a long way,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “I don’t think in 30 years I have had a team from the first day in August until now that has made the sort of strides that this team did.”
The Hawkeyes began to come together during the fall during their week-long Thanksgiving trip to the Dominican Republic.
“At the beginning of the year we were kind of the underdogs,” said junior Jake Adams. “We knew what kind of talent we had right away going into that Dominican Republic trip, and we’re a close-knit group. It was fun to play with all of these seniors who have been here and some of the guys who haven’t been playing a lot. They have stepped it up on and off the field.”
Heller called the 2017 Hawkeyes the epitome of team. It was a collection of talent that came together to win 39 games, the fifth most in a season in program history.
“They played unselfish all season and until the last out,” Heller said. “They do not quit and do not change based on who they play.
“They take care of their business, whether it is a midweek situation or a conference situation. What they left for the guys coming back — and the recruits we have coming in — can’t even be measured.”
The Hawkeyes will have a strong core returning in 2017, but the team will also have big holes to fill. Adams goes down in Iowa lore after being the unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year and belting a school and Big Ten-record 29 home runs.
Adams will take his talents to professional baseball after being selected by Houston in the sixth round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, while staff ace Nick Gallagher has signed a professional contract with the Cleveland Indians. Seniors Mason McCoy, Ryan Erickson, and Josh Martsching have exhausted their eligibility.
“We’ll have big holes to fill at shortstop and if Jake does go into the draft,” said Heller. “Once he’s gone, at my age, I don’t know if I will ever see a player like him again. You don’t get many opportunities to coach a guy like Jake Adams.
“I like what we have coming back. I am hoping we will be a lot healthier than we were (in 2017) and we will get many of the injured players back. We’ll have a lot of guys who are quality pitchers who have been in the program and should be better next year, and we have an awesome recruiting class coming in.”