By Adam Hensley
Jake Adams hit his first home run when he was only 10 years old.
He hasn’t let up since then.
“I’ve hit a lot in my life,” Adams said following Iowa’s 4-3 win against Milwaukee on Tuesday.
The junior entered this year with plenty of hype; before the season started, teammate Robert Neustrom said Adams hit a ball farther than he’d ever seen.
Adam’s 400-foot home run in the third inning, his 15th on the year, added even more evidence to support Neustrom’s contention.
For those curious, the school record for home runs in a season stands at 22, set by John Knapp in 1986. Brad Carlson came close in 2002 with 16, but no other Hawkeye finished the season with more than 14 in the last 30 years.
Head coach Rick Heller rated Adams as one of the best hitters he’s coached, not just during his four seasons with Iowa but throughout his 30-year coaching career.
“He’s not only one of the best power hitters, he’s a really good all-around hitter,” he said.
The home-run totals jump off the stat sheet, but Adams’ 48 RBIs and .344 batting average rank second and sixth in the Big Ten. He also leads the conference in total bases with 109, 18 more than second-place Marty Costes of Maryland.
Adams’ 15 dingers came in only 39 games. Iowa still has 14 games left on its regular-season slate, plus the postseason, giving Adams confidence in his chances at breaking Knapp’s record.
However, he’s concerned with Iowa’s ability to close out the season on a high note and make a run in postseason play.
“I’d like to
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While his home-run total ties with Rob Eddie for ninth all-time in program history, Adams holds the top spot in the conference. Ahead of Illinois’ Pat McInerney by 3 homers, he aspires to take home the title as 2017 home-run king in the Big Ten.
The key to a successful at-bat, Adams said, lies in visualization and confidence, especially with pitchers throwing off-speed balls his way.
Adams said taking home the homer crown also helps to put Iowa on the map. His feat would help the program by regaining credibility as a top-hitting school.
“Iowa isn’t known for its power [in] the last couple years, so bringing this power to Iowa is something that I’ve cherished,” Adams said. “I know the fans really appreciate it.”
The fans aren’t the only ones who appreciate the home-run specialist’s work.
Iowa’s finished with some of its best pitching performances on the season when the Hawkeye offense finds the scoreboard first, giving the starters and bullpen a cushion.
Even in close games, such as Iowa’s contest with Milwaukee on Tuesday, Hawkeye pitchers find reassurance in Adams’ ability to connect on a ball at any given moment.
“It’s awesome,” pitcher Drake Robison said. “Every time he comes up to the plate, you think, ‘All right, we could score 4 runs with one swing of the bat.’ I’m pretty sure he put a hole in a Cambus with his home run [against the Panthers].”
Adam’s quest for the school record won’t come easily; two of Iowa’s final three conference opponents rank in the top half in home runs allowed in the Big Ten. But as Hawkeye fans recall, Adams is capable of churning out stellar performances, like his three-home-run outing against Kansas State on March 19.
A Penn State team allowing the fifth-most hits in the conference, but also the fourth-fewest home runs in the Big Ten, travels to Iowa City for a three-game weekend series against Iowa at Banks Field, giving Adams another shot at making history.
“You don’t get a chance to coach guys like Jake very often, so I’m trying to enjoy it,” Heller said.