Potempa shows off some thunder

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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In Iowa baseball’s Big Ten opening series against Nebraska, junior Dan Potempa failed to reach base just three times.

The performance resulted in his earning Big Ten Co-Player of the Week.

Success at the plate at the plate has become the norm for Potempa early in Iowa’s season. The transfer from Iowa Central Community College has proven to be one of the toughest outs for opposing pitchers.

“I’ve really just bought into what the coaches are saying,” he said. “Staying relaxed, take a deep breath. It’s all about your at-bat routine … coaches have been harping on us to stay relaxed and just do what we do.”

Potempa isn’t just one of the best hitters in the Big Ten, the statistics say he may just be the best, as of now.

The Tinley Park, Ill., native leads the Big Ten in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. And it’s not even close.

Potempa’s batting line looks something like this — a .440 batting average, a .580 slugging percentage, and a .547 on-base percentage. The next closest player in each of those categories comes in at .389, .530, and .461.

The junior transfer has racked up six multi-hit and four multi-RBI games. And he has reached based in 15-straight games.

“He gives you great at-bats. He knows what he can do. He sticks to his plan, doesn’t try to do too much,” head coach Rick Heller said. “And he’s real confident right now.”

Even though a patient and well-planned approach at the plate typically pays dividends, some of this success has come as a surprise.

Last season, Potempa hit .291 with 3 home runs and 24 RBIs for Iowa Central, but as Heller noted, Potempa was hampered by a wrist injury the whole season.

Even with the injury, current teammate Tyler Peyton, who transferred from Iowa Central to Iowa the same year as Potempa, saw potential in him before this offensive explosion.

“For some reason, I had this feeling that I knew he was a great hitter all along,” Peyton said.

Now that Potempa is fully recovered, that talent has reared its head and become evident to everyone.

“Dan has worked really hard on his swing,” Heller said. “He shortened it up over the winter, and it’s really paying dividends for him.”

What hasn’t surprised anyone is Potempa’s choice to come to Iowa following two seasons in community college. Ever since an injury to his brother, Sean Potempa, kept him from coming to Iowa, Dan Potempa has had the goal to don the black and gold.

“I’ve been kind of doing it for him; it means a lot to me,” Potempa said. “I’ve always wanted to play here. I love the field, love the school, love the atmosphere, coaches, everything.”

The Hawkeyes, fresh off winning their first Big Ten opening series since 1998, will continue play today against Bradley. They resume the Big Ten schedule against Michigan this weekend.

Needless to say, Potempa likely won’t be going under the radar for opposing teams in the near future.

“He finally gets healthy this year, and he’s showing people that he can really hit the ball,” Peyton said. “We all know he can. He’s just proving it to people who didn’t know who he was.”

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