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.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Being the University of Iowa baseball team's Friday starter is something Calvin Mathews thought could happen at some point in his Hawkeye career. That time is now.
Mathews, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher, will take the hill as Iowa's opening day starter when the team opens the season at Austin Peay on Valentine's Day.
"I remember last year always thinking how cool it would be to come back and be a Friday night starter at some point in my career," said Mathews. "It happens to be this year, so I am excited for it."
It is a feat Mathews is excited to accomplish, not only for him, but for the 2,605 residents of his hometown of Bloomfield, Iowa.
"It's huge for me coming from a tiny hometown, and I know it's a big deal for everybody back home," he said. "I am looking forward to this opportunity."
After leaving a midweek start against Milwaukee on April 30, 2013, with an injury and being shut down for the entire summer, it's an opportunity Mathews didn't know would be possible.
"I went home that night (following Milwaukee game) thinking I don't know how bad this injury is or what the doctors are thinking because nothing was coming up on the MRIs," said Mathews.
During the final month of the 2013 season and during summer ball, Mathews was shut down. Without baseball, he spent his time working out and going through daily therapy on his arm for the duration of the summer. He came back to the UI 40 pounds lighter in the best shape of his life.
After returning to his throwing regime in the fall, Mathews stopped with the therapy, and a few bullpen sessions later the injury resurfaced. He was shut him down a second time, this time until early-to-mid November.
"Thing were going well, and I didn't have any problems for a month and a half," said Mathews. "I started throwing again at the beginning of December, didn't have any arm troubles and continued on with therapy every day. I started feeling better and better."
Mathews hit the ground running when team practice began Jan. 25, and his performance impressed UI head coach Rick Heller enough that Mathews went from being a wild card in the rotation to the Friday starter.
Mathews says the experiences gained as a true freshman will pay dividends this season. He posted a 2-5 record with a 4.81 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) in 2013, finishing with 27 strikeouts to 11 walks in 40 1/3 innings.
"Last year I didn't know what to expect coming into the season, as far as how to pitch to collegiate hitters," said Mathews. "This year I have more experience and my confidence is way up."
Mathews' best freshman outing came April 16 when he combined with Taylor Kaufman in a 3-0 shutout victory over Nebraska-Omaha -- Iowa's only shutout in 2013. Mathews tossed five innings, allowing three hits and finishing with three strikeouts.
"That performance gave me a lot of confidence," said Mathews. "It made me realize the potential I have if I go out every night and throw with that kind of confidence and if I have all of my pitches working."
Friday's game is set to begin at 3:30 p.m. (CT) from Raymond C. Hand Park in Clarksville, Tenn.