Martin leads the way for Iowa baseball’s first Big Ten win

Junior transfer Austin Martin has been Iowa's most consistent hitter this season, and he showed it on Friday.

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Martin leads the way for Iowa baseball’s first Big Ten win

Iowa catcher Austin Martin bats against Illinois on March 29, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini, 8-4.

Iowa catcher Austin Martin bats against Illinois on March 29, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini, 8-4.

Iowa catcher Austin Martin bats against Illinois on March 29, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini, 8-4.

Iowa catcher Austin Martin bats against Illinois on March 29, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini, 8-4.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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When the Iowa baseball Twitter account tweeted on Friday, “All Austin Martin does is hit,” it wasn’t lying.

Martin, who leads the Hawkeyes with a .359 batting average, has been Iowa’s most consistent producer at the plate all season, and he proved why in the Black and Gold’s 8-4 win over No. 25 Illinois on Friday.

Martin finished the game 3-for-3 with a double and 2 RBIs, putting a little extra mustard on each ball he sent into the field.

First, he clubbed a two-out double off the left-field fence to bring in Mitchell Boe for the first run of the game.

In the very next inning, he sent a single to right field to plate another run and extend Iowa’s lead.

Eventually, the Illini had enough. They intentionally walked Martin in a tie game in the eighth inning, and the Hawkeyes would score 4 runs in the frame for their first Big Ten win of the season.

Along with his team-leading average, the Southeastern Community College transfer has also brought in 12 runs and launched 2 home runs.

Martin also serves as a dependable backstop for the Hawkeye pitching staff, and he’s proven to be capable of catching base stealers, throwing one out against the Illini.

“Nobody deserves it more,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “He works really, really hard. He’s spent so much time cleaning up his swing this season, and it’s really paid off. Those balls were smoked. He hammered those balls. He’s just been giving us great at bats day in and day out.”

Before the series-opening win over Illinois, runs had been hard to come by for Iowa. In its first Big Ten series of the season, it only managed to score 4 runs in three games to make for a clean sweep by Indiana.

On Tuesday, the Hawkeyes toppled Bradley, 4-2, but three of those runs came off an error by the Braves’ right fielder.

Martin didn’t slow down, though. In that stretch through Friday, he went 8-for-15 at the plate with 3 RBIs and 4 runs scored.

He might be new, but Martin has already proven to be an integral part of the Hawkeye offense.

“We’ve had a couple games where it’s hard to get a couple across the plate for sure, but I mean, we just keep sticking with the process,” Martin said. “We’re not getting caught up in results.”

Despite Martin’s success this season, achievements in Big Ten play have not come easy. Granted, Iowa had only played three conference games before Friday but improvement was needed after the sweep in Bloomington.

The Hawkeyes almost stayed winless in the conference against Illinois, conceding a three-run lead by giving up 4 Illini runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

Iowa didn’t stay cold, though, and battled back with a one-run seventh inning and four-run eighth to secure the victory.

“This team fights,” Boe said. “On [Banks Field], it’s tough to beat us, we know that. We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to bounce back, we’re going to take shots. We knew that was going to happen. We knew they were a good team, so the way we responded was really big for us.”