April 9, 2012
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 -- The bats are coming alive for the University of Iowa baseball team, and senior Phil Keppler is leading the surge.
The Hawkeyes, winners of three of their last five games, averaged 6.6 runs in games against South Dakota State and Nebraska last week. Iowa swept a two-game midweek series over the Jackrabbits before dropping 2-of-3 games in Lincoln.
Keppler swung a hot bat, hitting .733 (11-of-15) with three walks and seven RBI, which led to him earning his first career Big Ten Player of the Week honor. In Sunday's series finale -- a 9-8 defeat that saw the Huskers rally from an 8-4 deficit in the eighth inning -- Keppler went 3-for-3 with three RBI. On Saturday, he had two hits, including his first home run of the season and sixth of his career.
His hot bat has vaulted him to the top of Iowa's offensive charts. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound utility player leads the Hawkeyes in batting average (.400) and slugging percentage (.483). Seven of his 11 RBI have come in Iowa's last five games.
"Phil has really come on for us since Big Ten play started," said Iowa head coach Jack Dahm. "His approach has improved. He is making solid contact, and has been a run producer."
Keppler's offensive success has earned the senior a spot in the middle of the Hawkeye batting order.
The Manchester, Iowa, native credits his recent offensive success to adjustments he has made at the plate.
"I moved my hands a little bit on the bat, but it has really been my approach at the plate," said Keppler. "I've been trying to let the ball get deeper so I'm not getting beat by off-speed pitches. I've also been looking for my pitch and my counts."
Keppler says that he's seeing the ball well right now and wants the trend to continue. Not only has his bat been progressing, but the team has seen its offensive production improve.
"Collectively we are all having better approaches at the plate," said Keppler. "Our approach has been better, we're getting more base runners and executing when they've been in scoring position."
Although his Hawkeye career is winding down, Keppler said he isn't playing with a sense of urgency but instead his mentality is that he's "trying to enjoy the ride and get some W's."
Keppler said Sunday's road loss was a tough one to swallow, but how the team responds will play a big factor in how the squad finishes the 2012 season.
"We're right in the middle of a Big Ten race," Keppler said. "We need to pick our heads up and play better baseball moving forward."
Dahm echoed Keppler's sentiments.
"We need to bounce back and show some perseverance," Dahm said. "Our attitude is going to be a big key for us. We need to make sure we come out Tuesday with energy because Western Illinois is a very talented team."
The Hawkeyes return to action tomorrow when they host Western Illinois at 6:35 p.m. at Duane Banks Field. Tickets are $3 for adults and free for students.