Feb. 28, 2014
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 -- Baseball is a numbers game, but University of Iowa senior Taylor Zeutenhorst isn't getting caught up in his his home run total or his batting average. He just wants to win, have fun and let the numbers take care of themselves.
"I am playing more relaxed and am focused on having fun with my team," said Zeutenhorst, an outfielder from Sheldon, Iowa. "It's my last year, and I want to have a good time. The last few years I was putting pressure on myself to do well with numbers, and (this year) I just want to win and enjoy my senior season. I am focused more on the right things."
If seven games are an indication, Zeutenhorst is enjoying 2014.
Zeutenhorst is off to his best start as a Hawkeye, hitting .357 (10-of-28) with 11 runs, nine RBIs and two home runs. (He had two career home runs entering his senior campaign). Zeutenhorst was tabbed as the Big Ten Player of the Week on Feb. 24 after hitting .412, slugging .765 and scoring six runs at the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
"I am playing more relaxed and am focused on having fun with my team. It's my last year, and I want to have a good time. The last few years I was putting pressure on myself to do well with numbers, and (this year) I just want to win and enjoy my senior season. I am focused more on the right things."
UI senior Taylor Zeutenhorst
"I am looking to get my best swing off on the best pitches I can hit," said Zeutenhorst. "My pitch selection has been a lot better this year than it has been in the past."
With a more disciplined Zeutenhorst along with sophomore Blake Hickman in the middle of the lineup, the Hawkeyes have been an early season offensive juggernaut. Iowa is leading the Big Ten in runs (64), RBIs (54), home runs (6), doubles (18), total bases (112), slugging percentage (.444) and on-base percentage (.409).
"We have a lot of guys that are driving in runs, and if I can contribute in the middle of the lineup, it is going to help our team," said Zeutenhorst. "Blake is also driving in a lot of runs, and our whole team is producing. We're leading the Big Ten in a lot of statistical categories, so everyone is on point right now."
The key to Zeutenhorst's success is a revamped hitting approach. He is stepping into the batter's box with a plan, and it's translating into production.
"The coaches have a good hitting plan in place for us, and we've been sticking to it and having a good approach compared to last year," said Zeutenhorst. "I know what pitch I am looking for in certain counts, and it has made it a lot easier."
UI head coach Rick Heller says not all the balls may continue falling for Zeutenhorst, but he doesn't see any reason why he can't continue his production throughout the 2014 season.
"He is confident and getting good swings off consistently," said Heller. "Hopefully he can continue to do that all season because I don't see any reason why he can't. He has gotten to the point where he can get his good swing off consistently, and it's good to see Taylor swinging with such confidence."
With their 6-1 start -- the best for the Iowa program since 1985 -- the Hawkeyes are flying high heading to Florida for the Stetson Invitational, but their day-to-day approach isn't changing.
"Winning is always fun, but coach Heller is nailing into us that we need to keep getting better every day," said Zeutenhorst. "We're never as good or as bad as we think we are. Whether we win or lose, we're putting the game behind us and trying to get better the next day."
The competition level will improve the next two weekends with Iowa facing Stetson, Maine and Furman in Deland, Fla., and Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., but Zeutenhorst expects the Hawkeyes to continue moving forward.
"We don't need to change anything," he said. "We are who we are, and we'll keep working hard to get better every day. We attack every team the same way and don't treat anybody different. That's what good teams do, they just play their ball."
Friday's opener at Stetson is slated to begin at 6 p.m. (CT) at Melching Field. Fans can watch the game online at www.gohatters.com.