Calvin Mathews brings consistency to Iowa pitching rotation


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Calvin Mathews currently has a 2-4 record in 9 appearances and a 4.58 ERA. Those statistics may not turn many heads, but don’t be fooled. Mathews has been one of the most consistent Iowa starters in the past few weeks.

The freshman gave the Hawkeyes five solid innings against Northern Illinois last night. He surrendered only 3 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 3 and walking none. It’s the type of performance head coach Jack Dahm has been getting used to lately.

“He was outstanding,” Dahm said. “The biggest thing was to see him go out there with confidence. You could see in his body language he was out there confident. He’s going through that freshman learning curve, and I think he’s making huge strides.”

Aside from a less-than-stellar performance against Kansas on April 9, in which he allowed 6 earned runs on 9 hits, Mathews has been impressive in his most recent starts. In his last 26 innings pitched, including that Kansas start, he’s allowed only 9 earned runs on 22 hits. In his last five games, he’s struck out 19 and walked only 4.

In his last two starts, he’s had as many strikeouts as hits allowed.

“He’s always pretty dominant and around the strike zone,” fellow pitcher Josh Martsching said. “He throws hard, but he’s also got really good off-speed stuff. His composure has really picked up. He got a little sped up earlier in the year, but he’s been able to slow things down.”

Against Northern Illinois, Mathews had his stuff working. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and needed only 23 pitches to get through the first three innings. The freshman attacked batters early; he started eight of the first 11 batters with a strike.

Only four of the 18 batters faced by Mathews got the count to at least two balls, and the first batter to take more than one ball in an at-bat wasn’t until the fourth inning.

The only blemish against Mathews came in the fourth inning when Northern Illinois used a single and a double to score their first run of the contest.

“Before the game [interim pitching] Coach Brownlee told me to go out there and throw strikes,” Mathews said. “I feel like I went out there and battled as much as I could. The first time through the lineup I mainly used fastballs, but later, I mixed in my curve ball and slider, and I think that worked.”

Before coming to Iowa, Mathews ranked the second-best high-school baseball player in the state of Iowa and 82nd-bested starting pitcher in the nation. In his senior year, he was voted the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year and the Iowa High School Coaches Association Baseball Player of the Year. Mathews walked only five batters in both his junior and senior years combined.

Iowa coaches are hoping the future is just as bright as the past for Mathews. As far as development goes, the freshman is right on line to become an integral part of the team for years to come.

“He’s got a bright future,” Dahm said. “He’s got the ability to become a Friday night starter in the Big Ten, which is just what we brought him in for.”

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