Kacy Clemens always has had a good eye in the batter’s box, drawing walks and managing to stick in Texas’ lineup even when he wasn’t hitting well.
Now that Clemens has two good eyes, he’s crushing the ball.
About two weeks ago, Clemens began wearing prescription baseball glasses to combat astigmatism, and the results have snapped into focus with 20/20 clarity. Clemens continued to see the ball well on Tuesday night, driving in three runs with a fifth-inning double in a 12-3 romp over Sam Houston State.
Clemens, a first baseman who gets penciled into the everyday lineup because of his reliable glove, is now adding some pop to an order that has been power-deficient in the early going. Since putting on the specs for a Sunday game against Stanford on Feb. 28, Clemens is batting .240 (6-for-19) with five extra-base hits. On Tuesday, he was 1 for 3 with a walk, three RBIs and two runs scored.
“Best ever,” Longhorns coach Augie Garrido said. “Is it the glasses? It’s probably a combination of things.”
Clemens said his grandmother has long been urging him to wear the glasses, and that he finally caved after some prodding from his father, Roger, and UT pitching coach Skip Johnson.
Naturally, Clemens downplayed the effect of his glasses and instead attributed his recent surge to his transition from pitcher to a full-time offensive player.
“Honestly, it’s not that big of a difference,” he said. “I feel the work I’ve put in is showing up on the field. … This is the same way I hit all through fall and early in spring scrimmages.”
On Sunday, Clemens hit a three-run blast against Cal for his second home run in the series and the third of his career. UT ended up blowing a 7-0 lead in the eighth inning and lost 10-7 in the 11th, resulting in the program’s first sweep in 79 four-game series. To say they needed a night like Tuesday, when they scored a season-high in runs, scratched out 14 hits and got a masterful performance by starter Morgan Cooper, is a bit of an understatement.
Cooper, making his second mid-week start after sitting out last year recovering from elbow surgery, struck out a career-high eight batters in six full innings. He surrendered three hits — just one after the first inning — and at one point retired 11 in a row before plunking a batter in the fifth.
To end the fifth, Cooper (1-0) got Taylor Beene swinging on a change-up on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
“I knew we needed to change something up because he was fouling off the fastball, so we went with the change-up and that’s what got him,” Cooper said.
All nine UT players in the lineup reached base — including Patrick Mathis, who started for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Feb. 25 — and all but Bret Boswell hit their way on.
“We made him promise that he wouldn’t run hard,” Garrido said of Mathis. “If he hits one in the alley, it’s not gonna be a triple.”
Every Longhorn batted in the fifth when Clemens cleared the bases with a double to right-center off reliever Dakota Mills. He scored two batters later when his older brother, Kody, ripped a shot up the middle for his second RBI of the night. An inning earlier, Kody hit one out to left for his first career home run.
“I was fired up about that because I know how good he is and he’s been getting pretty unlucky,” Kacy said.