By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The game raced by when Brendan Sher made his University of Iowa baseball debut in Honolulu.
When Sher became comfortable and slowed the process, he became the Hawkeyes’ first Big Ten Freshman of the Week in three seasons.
“In the fall and the beginning of this season, there were a lot of nerves and expectations I was trying to hold for myself,” said Sher, an infielder from Indianola, Iowa. “When I realized there was no pressure and that I was still playing the game that I have been playing my whole life, I forgot about everything and played the game like I knew how.”
Sher made his debut against Hawaii on Feb. 23 and it was a blur.
“I got into the game and in a blink of my eye, I was out of the game and it was over,” he said. “My nerves and the adrenaline were pumping. I couldn’t slow the game and everything was going so quickly.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t think about anything except, ‘Don’t miss this ground ball, you know you’re going to get one hit to you. Don’t miss this pitch, he’s going to throw a strike.’ Now I am settled in where I am focused in the field and I am back where I normally am.”
Sher wants the baseball to come his way. He wants to be in the batter’s box in a key situation because the confidence that made him the 2018 Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year has returned.
“I tried to slow the game,” he said. “Now I can make each pitch as long as I want and settle in and work on being better every pitch in the box and out in the field.”
Sher struggled to find consistency without regular playing time early in the 2019 season. His breakout game came April 23 when he finished 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored in Iowa’s victory over Milwaukee. Sher had a one-out single and scored the game-tying run in the 11th in an eventual 5-4, 12-inning win.
“It was hard trying to take advantage of an opportunity once a week because that was a pressure situation,” he said. “Since Milwaukee, I am going out and trying to have fun.”
Sher carried his success into Iowa’s road series at Ohio State from April 26-28. He hit his first career home run in the Hawkeyes’ 4-2 series-opening victory and had his second multi-hit game in a five-day stretch, finishing 2-for-4 with an RBI to clinch the team’s fifth straight Big Ten series win.
For the week, Sher hit .400 (6-of-15) and posted a .667 slugging percentage to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week accolades, the first by a Hawkeye since Robert Neustrom in 2016. Following a three-hit game against Western Illinois on Wednesday, Sher is hitting .320 (16-of-50) with eight runs and four RBIs. Ten of his 16 hits have come over the team’s last six games.
“One of the big reasons we recruited Brendan, outside of his baseball ability, was the fact he plays with a hop in his step and he loves to play baseball,” said Iowa head coach Rick Heller. “He’s not afraid to step in.
“He has been in key situations and tough spots, and he has played well. I don’t even look at him as a freshman anymore. He’s a guy that’s going to give you a quality at-bat no matter who we face.”
The Hawkeyes are 11 games over .500, sitting 27-16 overall, 11-7 in Big Ten play, to rank fourth in the league standings with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
This weekend, Iowa hosts No. 19 UC Irvine at Duane Banks Field. Friday’s series opener is set for 6:05 p.m. (CT).
“It has been a good year so far,” said Sher. “Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”