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Baseball ready for Minnesota


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Zach McCool crushes seemingly every ball he swings at during Big Ten play.

His .537 batting average and .604 on-base percentage through 11 conference games this season are both second-best in the Big Ten. The Manchester, Iowa, native is also slugging .683 in those games.

The Hawkeyes (17-22, 5-7) hope he can continue his rampage during this weekend’s three-game home series against Minnesota (17-24, 6-6). Game one is set for 6:05 p.m. today in Banks Field.

McCool credits his success to maintaining a consistent approach at the plate. The junior finds himself more rested during weekend series, making it easier to be relaxed and play within his ability.

“The biggest thing is concentrating,” McCool said. “Being myself and trusting what I have done the entire year. That’s taking a good approach at the plate and just building confidence from there on.”

The Iowa coaches, including head man Jack Dahm, entered the season expecting the now-starting third baseman to continue in a utility role similar to one he filled his first two years in Iowa City.
McCool’s biggest downfall in previous seasons may have been his desire to expand that role.

“Last year, Zach was a part-time player for us,” Dahm said. “He wanted to get in the lineup so badly, he might have tried to do a little bit too much instead of staying within what he could do.”

For the 5-7 McCool, trying to do too much included trying to be a power hitter. His coaches saw the need for a change and addressed his tendency to hit too many fly balls.

He listened, and it’s paid off. McCool now regularly sprays singles and doubles across the field.

“We talked to him about trying to hit more line drives,” Dahm said. “He’s really changed the flight of the ball off his bat and has flattened out his swing.”

Instead of a player struggling to find his role, McCool has found his niche at the No. 2 hole in Iowa’s lineup. Dahm raves about his leadership and consistent approach after every game.

McCool’s teammates express the same appreciation.

“The best thing about Zach McCool is just the energy that he brings to the team,” catcher Tyson Blaser said. “If we could put nine Zach McCools on the field, we could have a pretty good team.”

While McCool has recorded big-time numbers in his first season as a regular, he knows even the slightest dip in effort could cost him.

His goal is to continue to be the team’s work horse.

“Even if I am having a rough day at the plate or even defensively, I still have to be that energized player and keep playing hard every single pitch,” McCool said. “If I don’t have that, I’m not going to be the player I am right now.”

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