By Jordan Zuniga
This past spring, the Iowa baseball team experienced a lot of success, winning the Big Ten Tournament Championship and making it to an NCAA regional.
Having tasted success early in his college career, soon-to-be sophomore Grant Judkins is hungry for more.
“The whole playoff run was a great experience for our team,” he said. “We want to go back next year for sure, we’re working really hard to get back. The ultimate goal is to make it to the College World Series, but we at least want to win the Big Ten and get back to regionals.”
Last season, Judkins showed off his versatility as he both pitched and played designated hitter for the Iowa baseball team.
As a pitcher, Judkins went 1-0 with a 7.59 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched; hitting was where he excelled last season. His batting average came in at .270 with 2 homers and 16 RBIs in 111 at-bats.
As a hitter, he was extremely reliable in postseason play for the Hawkeyes. During the regional, he hit .300 (3-for-10) and hit .286 (6-for-21) in the Big Ten Tournament, reaching base safely in four of five games.
This summer, the Pella, Iowa, native has spent almost all of his time playing baseball for the Northwoods Summer League Loggers in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The focus of his summer has been improving his hitting; he has only pitched in three games and totaled three innings.
However, his bat has been as hot as the summer temperatures, hitting .312 with 3 homers and 10 RBIs in 77 at-bats.
With Iowa’s star first basemen Jake Adams now playing minor-league ball for the Astros, the Hawkeyes have a huge hole to fill at first base, and Judkins has spent his summer working hard to become Adams’ replacement.
“I played a lot of first base this summer, and I thought that was really good to get some experience there,” he said. “I want to be an everyday starter somewhere in the lineup [next season] and to be able to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
Judkins will get a chance to prove himself worthy of a starting role on the Hawkeye baseball team later this summer when the Hawkeyes travel to Taipei, Taiwan, to represent the United States in the World University Games.
The games will take place Aug. 19-30 and will feature 10,000 athletes from 170 countries.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our student-athletes, staff, and the University of Iowa to be able to represent our country at the World University Games,” head coach Rick Heller said. “This experience will be tremendous from both a competitive and educational standpoint, and we’re thrilled to be able to play against some of the best competition in the world, while wearing the red, white, and blue.”
“The whole experience of going to Taiwan and playing against other countries should be a lot of fun,” Judkins said.
Iowa is just the second university to be chosen to represent the U.S. in the games, joining Cal State-Fullerton, which finished fourth in 2015.
Iowa and Judkins hope that their team’s momentum last spring can carry over into their summer trip to Taiwan.