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Booker clicking key for Hawkeyes

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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Early in the first game one of Sunday’s double-header against Nebraska, it looked as though the Hawkeye baseball team was down and out.

The Hawkeyes had rallied to score 1 run in the sixth, but were down to their last six outs.

Then junior Joel Booker smacked a leadoff triple, and the rally was on. For Booker, the triple did more than get the rally going again. The triple ended a hitless streak that dated back to the first game of the Northwestern series on April 16.

“It was huge,” Booker said. “I came in not swinging it well, and I talked to [head coach Rick] Heller and he was like, ‘You need to come up with an approach, just relax.’ ”

Booker said the conversation with Heller helped him take his mind out of the equation in the batter’s box.

“I’m like a real mental kid,” Booker said. “When I step in the box, he said, he could really see me turning my wheels, not relaxing, not letting the game come to me.”

The rangy right fielder, who during his slump proved his worth in the field by tracking down fly balls and making highlight catches, slowed down his thinking and let the game come to him.

And in a sport with as much thinking as baseball, one trick proved to be the difference in the North Carolina native’s fortunes at the plate.

“See pitch, hit pitch,” Booker said.

Booker scored one batter late on senior Eric Toole’s sacrifice fly to tie the game. He then singled in the bottom of the ninth in the first game and reached on a fielder’s choice in the third inning of the second game.

The triple in the eighth, however, did not go unnoticed by coaches or teammates.

“It’s huge,” senior Kris Goodman said. “A big confidence booster for him as well as the team; it’s awesome.”

Booker figures to have a good chance to continue his hot hitting today against Sacramento State. The Hornets are 22-21 on the season but are just 4-6 in their last 10 games.

The Hornet pitching staff has a 3.44 ERA and gives up a .354 slugging percentage this season.
The Hawkeye bats have struggled in midweek games at times, and they have been electric in others, but winning the final game of a nine-game home stand does not seem out of the question, and every win gets the Hawkeyes closer to the school record of 44 wins.

Heller has said his team is not built on power hitting, and productivity needs to come from the entire lineup.

“It was really good to see him have a big hit,” Heller said about Booker. “If we’re going to finish this off, he’s going to be a big part of it.”

Follow @IanFromIowa on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis on the Iowa baseball team.


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