Nick Allgeyer’s return to the mound elevates Hawkeye baseball


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

Iowa pitcher Nick Allgeyer poses for a portrait during baseball media day at the Hansen Football Performance Center on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes begin their season Feb. 16 against Toledo in the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series in Kissimmee, Fl. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Flash back to March 28, 2017.

Following a 13-4 beatdown on Northwestern, Iowa baseball hoisted its first-ever Big Ten Tournament Championship trophy.

The Hawkeyes capped off a run for the ages (four wins in four days over the conference’s best competition) with a historical, statement victory, but there was still one piece missing in the Black and Gold puzzle.

Enter Nick Allgeyer, a pitcher who didn’t set foot on the mound during the 2017 campaign.

During a practice in September 2016, the Hawkeye pitcher threw a slider, something he’d done countless times before.

But this time, something clicked — literally.

“It almost felt like I hit my funny bone. My whole arm kind of went numb,” he said.

Allgeyer shook out his arm and threw seven more pitches before the coaches began asking if something was wrong. None of his pitches found the strike zone, and his velocity went down considerably.

Allgeyer didn’t know it, but he wouldn’t put on an Iowa uniform for any live action for nine and a half months from then.

But never once did the redshirt junior lose sight of what was to come; Allgeyer saw Tommy John surgery as a fresh start — a mindset not many can claim.

“I saw it as an opportunity for me to come back, rehab, train for a year,” Allgeyer said. “You don’t have to pitch, you don’t have to worry about throwing strikes. You worry about getting your arm stronger, getting your elbow stronger, and hopefully putting on some miles per hour.

“I saw it as more of an opportunity than ‘why is this happening to me?’ ”

Following his injury, the trainers believed there to be ulnar collateral ligament damage. That’s when Allgeyer knew something was definitely wrong.

An initial MRI showed a partial tear, which led doctor to suggest nerve surgery, but Allgeyer wasn’t too fond of the idea. He wanted a second opinion, so he traveled to St. Louis at the end of September of last year.

There, he underwent an MRI with dye in it, and physicians found a complete tear. Tommy John surgery was the only option.

“I didn’t have any doubts in my mind that Allgeyer would make it back and be back to normal, just because of the toughness that he has,” head coach Rick Heller said. “In fact, he told me at one time, ‘I will be back. I promise you, I will be back, 100 percent.’ ”

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While Tommy John surgery didn’t allow him to compete from the pitcher’s mound, Allgeyer’s competitive nature trickled into his rehab process, where he worked alongside fellow pitcher Kole Kampen.

Kampen was further along in recovering from the same procedure, and Allgeyer said the two saw it as a competition — the two pitchers tried to see who could perform the best in throwing drills and use the most weight in their respective recovery workouts.

“It showed me what I was working toward,” Allgeyer said. “It almost gave me a pace I wanted to beat.”

Kampen remained further along in the recovery process, but both pitchers eyed the 2017 trip to Taiwan, in which Iowa represented Team USA, as their finish line. Before traveling to Taipei, though, Allgeyer made a brief appearance in the final exhibition match in Iowa City.

“[Allgeyer’s recovery] went perfect,” Heller said. “He was the fastest one I’ve ever seen return from [Tommy John surgery] in my career.”

Ten days later, he crossed the original finish line when Team USA defeated Mexico, 3-2, in the World University Games opener. In that game, Allgeyer pitched 1.2 innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits, but he also struck out 3 of the eight batters he faced.

“It was nerve-racking. I kind of compare it to the first time I threw here as a freshman,” he said. “You want to go out there, and you want get that first pitch called a strike. You want to get a strike under your belt. I threw the first pitch, and it was a strike, and it was kind of like a sigh of relief.”

Once that first pitch left his hand, Allgeyer picked up right where he left off — if not on a better level.

Allgeyer’s goal throughout his rehab was to be Iowa’s Friday night starter. He’s been that guy for the Hawkeyes, and today against No. 11 Indiana, he’ll be the first pitcher on the mound, thanks to a combination of determination, a positive mindset, and a long, successful recovery process.

The St. Louis native leads the Big Ten with a 1.76 ERA and boasts a 2-1 record. He’s struck out 28 batters (tied for third in the conference) in his 30.2 innings, but it’s his “calculated” approach that makes him special, pitching coach Desi Druschel said. “He’s got a real desire to become better and improve daily. Baseball is a thinking man’s game, and he’s a thinker.”

But while Allgeyer has taken out opposing batters at a quick rate, he’s got plenty of unfinished business.

Allgeyer was technically a part of the Big Ten Championship team, but he’s never had that sort of impact his fellow pitchers had on a conference-championship team.

Heading into the Big Ten opener today against the Hoosiers, all eyes are on the reigning Big Ten champs.

“Seeing them win the Big Ten Championship, I want to come back and help them do it again,” Allgeyer said. “I want to win the regular-season championship and the tournament. I want to help the team more this year than when I wasn’t able to do my part on the field last year.”




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