Keaton Anthony stays hot at the plate as Iowa win series against Purdue
Georgia native belts 2-run homer in first inning of Sunday's 9-1 victory
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Keaton Anthony apparently would rather let his hitting do his talking.
The redshirt freshman on the Iowa baseball team continued his torrid stretch at the plate, belting a 2-run home run in the first inning that helped to propel the Hawkeyes to a 9-1 series-clinching victory over Purdue on Sunday at a windy Duane Banks Field.
Anthony had two hits overall, scored three runs and he reached base twice on walks.
The Georgia native also smacked a 3-run homer in Saturday’s 10-6 loss to Purdue and he had one hit and drove in one run in Friday’s 5-2 win over the Boilermakers.
Anthony almost seemed embarrassed after Sunday’s victory when asked if he is locked in at the plate right now. He could’ve basked in the moment, but instead, he chose his words carefully and gave a short answer.
“Yeah, yeah, I’d say that I’m feeling pretty good up there,” Anthony said without expanding on his answer.
Iowa improved to 28-16 overall and 12-6 in the Big Ten, while Purdue fell to 26-16 and 7-9.
Iowa now enters finals week and will not play a mid-week game before traveling to East Lansing, Michigan for a three-game series against Michigan State that begins on Friday.
“It’s definitely a difficult week for everybody, so it’s nice for us to kind of step away for a little bit and get ready for this weekend against Michigan State,” Anthony said. “It’s a big weekend, last road series for us. It’s a huge weekend for us.”
Iowa coach Rick Heller has mixed emotions about not playing a mid-week game during finals week,
While he appreciates the extra time his players will have to focus on academics, Heller doesn’t like that it takes away an opportunity for his pitchers that didn’t see action against Purdue.
“Because we end up having to scrimmage all that time anyway,” Heller said. “I’d much rather it be against another team.
“You risk maybe not showing up and playing as well as you’d like offensively and defensively and all that. But I hate having a week off this late with good weather and not being able to have those guys compete against another team.”
The absence of a mid-week game on Tuesday is about all that Heller had to complain about after Sunday’s win.
Iowa scored nine runs on nine hits, while pitchers Ty Langenberg and Duncan Davitt combined on a 5-hitter with 12 strikeouts and just one walk.
They were also the beneficiary of some nifty defense by the Hawkeyes, including two fielding gems by third baseman Brendan Sher.
In the third inning, Sher made a diving grab to his left and then threw out speedy Purdue shortstop Evan Albrecht at first base.
Sher also charged on a bunt by Purdue centerfielder Curtis Washington in the top of the fifth and then scooped up the ball and threw out one of the fastest players in the Big Ten at first base.
“I don’t know what to say,” Langenberg said of the Hawkeye defense. “It gives me the utmost confidence when I am on the mound when I have guys behind me that are making plays like that. It gives me the confidence to attack each batter and if I do make a mistake, they are going to be there to back me up.”
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T5 | Oh my Sher.@bsher21_ bare hand… throws out one one of the fastest players in the Big Ten!#SCTop10 @d1baseball pic.twitter.com/L48wG0ZHJ9
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 8, 2022
Langenberg started the game and pitched a career-long seven innings, allowing five hits and recording seven strikeouts.
Duncan Davitt pitched the last two innings and was dominant, allowing no hits and striking out five of the seven batters he faced.
Langenberg said the windy conditions on Sunday impacted his approach on the mound.
“Especially wind like today where it’s blowing specifically in one direction,” Langenberg said. “Pitches like my slider won’t work as well. I won’t get as much horizontal movement with it and I think that kind of showed today, but at the same time, my control with it wasn’t that great.
“But I definitely had to consider that and had to stay with the cutter today because that’s more of a tighter spin and high (velocity) level pitch that kind of cut through that wind.”
As for Anthony, his hot streak at the plate has helped Iowa win its last four Big Ten series.
“Keaton Anthony has just been swinging the bat as well as anybody we’ve had in a while,” Heller said.
Asked what he attributed Anthony’s hot streak to, Heller said:
“To me, it’s all about concentration and focus. And you’re going to be really confident when things are going well. Usually when guys are not, that’s when the confidence is waning.
“But when you really believe in yourself and you’re as talented a hitter as Keaton is, it’s a good thing.”
One key to Anthony’s current hot streak is that he has adjusted as a right-handed batter to pitchers now trying to jam him inside.
“The thing that’s really impressive is that in the first half of the season everything was to the opposite field and he’s really done a nice job as people have adjusted by trying to pound him inside,” Heller said. “Now he’s hitting balls over the scoreboard to the pull side.
“That’s a big improvement and a testament to Keaton’s ability.”
Heller was proud of how his team bounced back on Sunday to win the series after having lost 10-6 to Purdue on Saturday.
“I thought we gave a really professional effort today, a real mature, professional effort after a tough day yesterday,” Heller said. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy. We were really dialed in against a good team.”