116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s an obsession with velocity in today’s baseball.
Pitchers want to throw hard, harder, hardest. Most of their coaches want them to throw hard, harder, hardest.
How fast each pitch is thrown is shown on televised games and ballpark scoreboards. It has become extremely weird when you don’t know the miles per hour of a pitch.
But sometimes velocity is overrated. Case in point is Iowa’s Cam Baumann.
The junior lefty has seen his normal fastball velo tick down a couple of notches to the 90-mile-per-hour range this season. Yet he has never thrown better for the Hawkeyes.
“I’ve been more focused on spotting up and commanding the zone,” Baumann said. “I’ve thrown harder in the past but not had the best results. Right now, my velo is down, and I’ve been having the best results.”
Baumann has a four-pitch mix of fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. He has been able to throw all of them in any count to any hitter.
It’s why he is third in the Big Ten Conference in earned run average (2.62). Baumann is 3-2 in seven appearances, six starts, and has allowed just 23 hits in 34 1/3 innings.
“I couldn’t be happier with my performance,” he said. “Based off my start at the beginning of the year, which was kind of rocky … I didn’t command very well, got behind in counts, and hitters took advantage of that. That’s a big part of the game of baseball as a pitcher is getting ahead in the count and throwing strikes, pitching to batters and letting them get themselves out.
“That’s really what I’ve taken the most advantage of recently. I’ve been able to command my stuff, one. I’m getting ahead of the batters and just pounding the zone. Letting them put the ball in play and getting themselves out. That is basically what has been working so well.”
Baumann gave up six runs in three innings to Michigan in his first start in early March. He also lost his second start, to Ohio State a week later.
Since then, he has been stellar and then some. He has two starts in which he has gone seven innings and allowed just three hits and a run.
That includes his most recent start last weekend against Rutgers.
Iowa (15-10) hosts Maryland at 7:05 Friday night and 1:05 Saturday afternoon and Northwestern at 4:05 Sunday afternoon and 3:05 Monday afternoon. The Hawkeyes have won 11 of their last 13 games.
“The way I see it is Cam has been in the program a long time and has worked really hard,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “He has had to fight through some arm injuries at times that have held him back. Not to the point where he’s missed (time), but to where he has had some issues. This year, he is really healthy and really fit.
“He and Robin Lund, our pitching coach, did a really nice job of really redefining his slider, and that has made a huge difference for Cam in his arsenal … He has been on a good roll here where he is pounding the zone with four pitches, has good fastball command. He’s got a lot of confidence right now, is a tough kid and has really stepped up for us. Cam is a big reason we have been able to get on this good run.”
Baumann pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman for Iowa in 2018, went 4-5 with a 5.29 ERA in 14 starts as a sophomore and gave up five runs in 3 2/3 relief innings during last year’s COVID-abbreviated season. He said the reason for his struggles last season was a case of mononucleosis.
He committed to Iowa as a freshman at Fairfield High School, where he was a multiyear all-stater.
“I started thinking (right away) that, yeah, this is where I want to go,” Baumann said. “That was the first (school) that came and talked to me and acknowledged me. I wanted to take advantage of that. So I committed my freshman year so I didn’t have to think about college throughout my high school career. I could just play.”
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