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Catchers step up in Kenyon's absence

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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When Iowa catcher Trevor Kenyon injured his PCL sliding in to third base a few weeks ago, many in attendance wondered who would shoulder the load behind the plate in his absence.

Would it be sophomore Blake Hickman, the right-handed pitcher and catcher with a cannon for an arm?

What about junior Joe Tellez or even sophomore Jimmy Frankos? 

While Kenyon’s loss to this Iowa team cannot be understated, it wasn’t as if head coach Rick Heller was devoid of options. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Since going down against Indiana back on April 8, Heller has used all three in replacement of Kenyon, a luxury most Big Ten teams simply do not have.

“Obviously, we’re all wishing Trevor a speedy recovery because you never want to see a teammate go down like that, but I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunities that will come our way,” Frankos said.

And while all three have seen their fair share of struggles, Frankos has emerged as the clear No. 1 option behind the dish for the Hawkeyes.

“Catching-wise, he’s done really, really well since coming in,” Heller said. “He’s really been outstanding pretty much every time we’ve needed him. He’s blocked the plate well and has called games really well back there.”

Frankos, a Park Ridge, Ill., native, has gotten the nod in five of Iowa’s last seven games.

And though he had made just a handful of appearances in the nonconference games, Frankos has been dynamic since playing full time.

“The experience will come,” Frankos said. “The big thing is that the opportunity is there and that I take advantage of it.”

The Hawks will need Frankos and his bat this weekend when they play host to Minnesota, a team that is dead even with the Hawkeyes in the Big-Ten standings (5-7).

“Minnesota coming in this weekend is a big series for us, so we have to wipe away everything that’s happened so far and try to get another couple wins,” Frankos said.

Iowa, a team that prides itself on being tight defensively, saw that reputation fall a bit in its last game, against Western Illinois, a wild, 10-inning contest that saw the Hawkeyes commit 4 errors in the 10-8 loss.

The Golden Gophers have struggled to find their footing in the Big Ten this season, having lost five of their last seven games, including four that saw them give up at least 5 or more runs. 

And while they rank third in the Big Ten in fielding percentage (9.73), they are second-to-last in team batting average, hitting an anemic .240 through 32 games this season.

They will face Iowa ace Calvin Matthews in the first game of the series tonight at Banks Field.  Matthews leads the Big Ten in strikeouts with 53.

Heller’s squad is confident; they know this is a big opportunity to gain some ground in the conference standings. 

“Big Ten is just huge for us,” Hickman said. “It’s the main focus of our season, and we need to just keep winning.”


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