The story behind each of Jake Adams' 27 home runs
HOUSTON — The optimism arrived slowly when, led by a last-second junior college find, Rick Heller promised his Hawkeyes would have more pop.
But this? Not sure anyone could’ve predicted this.
In his first Hawkeye season, Jake Adams — that late find — has thundered onto the college baseball scene in a way rarely seen. His 27 homers puts him in a share of the national lead. That tally is also five more than the previous program high of 22 (set by John Knapp in 1986) and is tied for the most in Big Ten history.
Adams’ bat has been a driving force behind Iowa’s successful 2017 season, which continues Friday in the Houston Regional against the top-seeded Cougars.
We went through and watched the tape of every Jake Adams' blast this season. Here's what we found.
When: Feb. 18 at South Florida
Count and situation: 1-0, nobody on and one out, Iowa in a 1-1 tie.
Breakdown: The opening act was strong — a go-ahead solo homer that cleared two fences and the palm trees in left. The long ball came two batters after Mason McCoy went deep and helped Iowa salvage a game against the Bulls.
Game: Feb. 24 vs. Alabama State
Count and situation: first pitch, one on and nobody out, Iowa leading 7-2.
Breakdown: One of the more impressive blasts this season, Adams crushed a two-run bomb well out of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. It was another early-season glimpse at the raw power Adams possesses and the success that could unfold.
Game: March 3 vs. Hawaii
Count and situation: 1-2, one on and two out, Iowa trailing 1-0.
Breakdown: Inside the vast and glamorous U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Adams started the weekend with a bang. His two-run homer gave some early run support to Nick Gallagher, who yielded three runs over eight frames in Iowa’s 7-6 win.
Game: March 4 vs. Oral Roberts
Count and situation: 0-1, two on and one out, no score.
Breakdown: After squeaking out the win over Hawaii to 7-6 win over Hawaii start the DQ Classic, Iowa needed a strong start against Oral Roberts and got it. Adams’ long ball supplied the Hawkeyes with an instant 3-0 advantage and propelled Iowa to one of its better wins over the season. Oral Roberts was an eventual NCAA Tournament team.
Game: March 12 vs. Lehigh
Count and situation: full count, bases loaded and one out, Iowa leading 4-0.
Breakdown: Adams’ forceful grand slam handed the Hawkeyes an 8-0 cushion and put the game out of reach. Iowa had dropped its first two games of the Snowbird Classic and needed a doubleheader sweep of Lehigh, which Adams helped ignite.
Nos. 6, 7 and 8
Game: March 19 at Kansas State
Innings: 1st, 4th and 6th
Count and situation: first pitch, two on and one out, no score; first pitch, nobody on and no outs, Iowa leading 3-2; 3-1, two on and two out, Iowa leading 11-4.
Breakdown: Perhaps this is when Heller first knew he really had something special. The Iowa first baseman went deep in three of his first four at-bats as the Hawkeyes outlasted Kansas State 12-11 in 11 innings. Adams drove in seven and — with the three blasts in one game — surpassed Iowa’s team home run total from 2013 (2).
FROM MARCH 23: Chad Leistikow on Jake Adams' unlikely rise
Game: March 28 vs. Grand View
Count and situation: 0-1, nobody on and one out, 5-all tie.
Breakdown: The Hawkeyes had delivered an uninspiring performance against their NAIA counterpart from Des Moines, but Adams made sure things didn’t spiral too far south. His go-ahead blast clanked off the left-center light pole and propelled Iowa to a 6-5 win.
Game: April 1 vs. UNLV
Count and situation: 2-2, nobody on and one out, Iowa trailing 2-1.
Breakdown: Greg Maddux — the Hall of Famer-turned-Rebels pitching coach — likely cringed as Tevita Gerber left a pitch out over the plate in a one-run game. Adams usually gets those, and this time was no different as the South Dakota native pulverized one to left. The blast awakened Iowa’s offense — it scored five runs over the final four innings for a 6-5 walk-off win — and gave the Hawkeyes a 10-homer hitter for the first time since 2007.
Game: April 4 vs. South Dakota State
Count and situation: 1-1, one on and two out, Iowa trailing 1-0.
Breakdown: A liner off the Duane Banks Field video board got Iowa on the board and erased an early deficit. The long ball, at the time, tied Adams for the Big Ten home run lead — a mark he’d soon overtake with relative ease.
Game: April 8 at Northwestern
Count and situation: 1-2, one on and nobody out, Iowa trailing 5-3.
Breakdown: The Northwestern series was Iowa’s most peculiar showing this season — as it opened with a 14-2 drubbing of the eight-win Wildcats and then dropped the final two for a sour weekend. After Northwestern pulled ahead with a five-run third in Saturday’s contest, Adams’ left-center blast briefly brought the Hawkeyes back even before they faltered late.
Game: April 9 at Northwestern
Count and situation: 3-2, one on and one out, no score.
Breakdown: It didn’t hold up, but the early crank handed starter Cole McDonald some early support. It marked Adams’ second homer of the series and fourth in a six-game span.
Game: April 14 at Nebraska
Count and situation: first pitch, nobody on and two out, no score.
Breakdown: In front of 6,000-plus fans, Adams kicked off the Hawkeyes’ most impressive series win this season in fine fashion. Nebraska starter Jake Hohensee had thrown fewer than 10 pitches before Adams took him deep to left-center — the first blow in an eventual 7-6 Hawkeye win.
Game: April 25 vs. Milwaukee
Count and situation: 1-1, nobody on and no outs, 2-all tie.
Breakdown: Adams opened the third with an absolute missile to left that ended a six-game homer drought while generating some absurd metrics. Iowa’s TrackMan software measured the blast at 400 feet with a 118 mph exit speed.
Game: April 29 vs. Penn State
Count and situation: 0-1, nobody on and two outs, Iowa trailing 1-0.
Breakdown: After Friday’s late-night doubleheader that saw play end after 1 a.m., it was understandable why the Iowa bats came out sluggish in Saturday’s series finale. The Hawkeyes hadn’t mustered much against lowly Penn State, but Adams jolted Iowa out of its sleep walking with a towering blast into the frigid night. The homer sparked a four-run seventh as the Hawkeyes turned a close game into a 9-1 laugher late.
Game: May 12 vs. Ohio State
Count and situation: 2-2, nobody on and two outs, Iowa trailing 1-0.
Breakdown: Adams entered the weekend opener with no homers in his last four games — which is roughly equivalent to two weeks for normal, non-absurd college hitters. But he didn’t wait around long against the Buckeyes, rocketing a misplaced breaking ball off the center-field batter’s eye. It brought the Hawkeyes back even and sparked an eventual 9-5 Iowa win.
Game: May 13 vs. Ohio State
Count and situation: 2-0, nobody on and no outs, Iowa trailing 5-0.
Breakdown: For the most part, Ohio State starter Connor Curlis kept the Hawkeyes in check on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon — but he did make one mistake to Adams that ended with a boom. Curlis left a belt-high fastball out over the plate. Adams rarely misses those.
Game: May 14 vs. Ohio State
Count and situation: first pitch, two on and two outs, Iowa trailing 9-2.
Breakdown: The Hawkeyes’ most impressive comeback of the year doesn’t happen without Adams’ initial spark. With Iowa stuck in an offensive rut — it hadn’t scored since the first inning — the burly first baseman brought the Hawkeyes back within striking distance, belting one 400-plus feet off the center-field batter’s eye. Iowa eventually rallied with nine runs over the final three innings.
Nos. 20 and 21
Game: May 16 vs. Omaha
Innings: 7th, 8th
Count and situation: 1-1, nobody on and no outs, Iowa trailing 8-3; 2-1, nobody on and one out, Iowa trailing 8-6.
Breakdown: After garnering significant momentum from the wild walk-off win over Ohio State, the Hawkeyes certainly didn’t want to hand it all back with an ugly midweek loss. Iowa had surrendered two runs in three of the last four Omaha frames, but Adams’ mighty blast off the left-field scoreboard injected new life into the Hawkeye. He followed with a moonshot to left for his second homer in as many innings. That again reignited the Hawkeyes, which walked off on Omaha one inning later.
Game: May 18 at Illinois
Count and situation: 1-1, nobody on and one out, 3-all tie.
Breakdown: With two weekend series to go and Adams sitting on 16 homers, it appeared unlikely that he’d even tie the single-season school record of 22. But a ridiculous final surge got him there, with this shot to left tying the mark as part of a back-to-back homer showing from the Hawkeyes. Illinois left fielder Bren Spillane hardly moved as Adams’ towering blast sailed over his head.
Nos. 23 and 24
Game: May 19 at Illinois
Innings: 1st, 8th
Count and situation: 1-1, nobody on and two outs, no score; first pitch, nobody on and no outs, Iowa leading 7-3.
Breakdown: One seismic swat away from history, Adams didn’t waste any time in snapping the program’s single-season home run record. The Iowa junior golfed the third pitch he saw out to left, despite a stiff wind providing ample resistance. Adams circled the bases with a smile on his face, knowing that his emphatic season had been officially cemented in the Hawkeye record books. He clobbered the eighth inning’s first pitch deep into the center Illinois night, adding on to what was already a record-setting evening. Adams slugged eight homers in the final seven regular-season games.
Game: May 27 vs. Minnesota
Count and situation: 1-0, nobody on and two outs, Iowa trailing 4-2.
Breakdown: This was arguably one of Adams’ most important homers this season. Not only did it halt a personal 1-for-13 start to the Big Ten Tournament, but the mammoth blast to left-center injected life in an Iowa team that fell behind 4-1 early in an elimination game. The Hawkeyes had the lead by the next inning, and Adams was back on track to deliver a riveting tourney finish.
Nos. 26 and 27
Game: May 28 vs. Northwestern
Innings: 7th, 8th
Count and situation: first pitch, one on and no outs, Iowa leading 6-1; 1-2, nobody on and one out, Iowa leading 10-1.
Breakdown: The Wildcats made a pitching change before Adams stepped to the plate, and the Iowa first baseman rudely greeted reliever Nick Cauley with a long bomb to left-center. Adams put the finishing touches on Iowa’s impressive title-game demolition, clubbing his second homer of the day in almost the same spot as the first. Northwestern right-hander JR Reimer entered to start the frame and did no better than his predecessor, hanging a 73-mph slider that Adams crushed to pull even with the nation’s home run lead.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.