IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jake Adams’ Big Ten Tournament slump lasted three days and four games. It ended as quickly as it takes a video to load onto a computer.
Before Adams faced Northwestern in the championship game on Sunday, he reviewed film of his swing. It took him less time to identify the hole in his swing than to run the bases after a home run.
“I was literally in there 10 seconds,” Adams said. “I was like, ‘That’s my problem’ and walked right out of the door.”
How he loaded his hands before swinging was the culprit. Adams found his rhythm in time to help Iowa secure the Big Ten’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, and now Iowa’s most important hitter heads to the Houston Regional ready to slug the Hawkeyes to an upset or two.
“I’m locked in,” Adams said.
The Big Ten Tournament slump
He wasn’t locked in when he arrived in Bloomington, Ind. He started the tournament 1 for 13 with 5 strikeouts. Adams hit a home run in the semifinal elimination victory against Minnesota on Saturday, but he knew something wasn’t right. He felt as lost as a driver with a malfunctioning GPS device on a rural road with the bat in his hand.
So he watched video with hitting coach Sean Moore. He identified the problem in one at-bat. Adams moved his hands out when loading to swing. It causes a longer stroke and more fly balls.
Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller saw baseballs flying out of the stadium all tournament long. Heller knows Adams saw it, too, and trying to join the home run frenzy caused him to get all discombobulated.
“If you want to get pull happy that’s a pretty good sign you are going into a slump right there because you have to cheat and when you are cheating you are exposed,” Heller said. “You are exposed away to the breaking stuff.”
Finding his swing
Hand problems are common for Adams. It happened at Penn State in late April. He didn’t need any extra work to fix his swing. Focusing on a short, compact movement solved the issue before batting practice ended on Sunday.
“I got back to my normal self,” Adams said.
Which meant he finally joined the home run party. Adams went 4 for 4 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI in the 13-4 win against the Wildcats in the championship game.
It’s no coincidence Iowa’s offense, which was inconsistent throughout the tournament, came to life when the Big Ten Player of the Year and his 27 home runs started making hard contact again.
“He always sets the tone,” Robert Neustrom said. “We just feed off of him.”
Carrying it over to regionals
Adams and his .339 average and 70 RBI are the key to Iowa’s lineup. When he hits well so does an offense that led the Big Ten in hits (79), slugging percentage (.450) and total bases (174).
He tried not to obsess about his struggles in a win-or-go-home environment, reminding himself that baseball is a game of failure. He worked himself out of his funk thanks to a well-timed film session.
Now, Adams is back to mashing the ball as he did all season long. His Big Ten Tournament reminded him of two valuable lessons he plans to employ as No. 4 seed Iowa faces No. 1 seed Houston in a regional opener on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU):
Keep his hands tight and if he feels well he’ll swing well.
“I learned just to be confident with myself and not beat myself down,” Adams said. “If I am confident. I know I’m a good player. My teammates know I’m a good player. The fans do, too. I can’t let that impact who I am.”
Iowa’s best hitter knows it. It could spell trouble for rest of the Houston regional.