Cropley shining bright as offensive star


Lily Smith

Iowa catcher Tyler Cropley swings at a ball during the Iowa/Mizzou baseball game at Duane Banks Field on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. The Tigers defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-16, with two extra innings. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Tyler Cropley has been on fire this season, and he hasn’t been put out.

When Missouri rallied from being down 8-0 and 13-6 to tie the game at 13, it was fate that Cropley was the first man to step in the batter’s box. And he took advantage.

With two walk-off home runs on the year, including a grand slam and one in Iowa’s win over No. 7 Michigan on Sunday, the McCook Lake, South Dakota, native lifted another deep ball that cleared the left-field fence and staked the Hawkeyes to 14-13 lead in the eighth inning.

Cropley took advantage of his opportunity competing against an SEC opponent, going 3-for-5 with 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, and 4 runs scored.

Although Iowa fell, 17-16, in 11 innings, it ended up being just another chapter of the impressive book Cropley is writing with his play this season.

“Just keeping my head on straight and doing the work that I’ve been doing all year,” Cropley said. “It’s just the ball is finding the barrel a little more often right now.”

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After getting off to a slow start last season, this year has been the complete opposite. He scuffled for a while in 2017, hitting just .203 to start the month of April, but Cropley eventually became a second-team All-Big Ten selection at catcher while hitting .268 with 36 RBIs.

Now, Cropley is the anchor of the Hawkeye offense, proving his worth with a slash line of .375/.473/.638, leading the team in all three categories. He also ranks first with 38 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with 8 home runs.

Originally hitting behind Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Robert Neustrom, Cropley has put himself in front of the right fielder in recent games.

His production on defense has made him a leader in that aspect as well.

He heated up toward the end of last season, but his production wasn’t quite like what he shows almost every game this season. It has only been a year, but the turnaround is apparent.

“He’s just so confident, and it took him a while to hit his stride last season and gain that confidence, but he was really swinging it well for us down the stretch last year,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “He really believes in himself now, and he’s seeing it well, and he’s a great player. He’s worked really hard, and you’re seeing the results of a guy who works with a purpose.”

Now, with the Big Ten Tournament, Cropley and the rest of the Hawkeye offense want to keep their production at the plate going.

After all, Iowa is the defending conference-tournament champion, and Cropley earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament team en route to the program’s first title.

The tough schedule Iowa has endured over the past week — including No. 7 Michigan this past weekend, Missouri on Tuesday, and No. 17 Oklahoma State starting Friday — will help it prepare for the Big Ten Tournament, which will begin on May 23.

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