The 38 runs that Texas baseball scored in three wins last week can be counted among the program’s best offensive showings in years. Those triumphs, however, came against Northwestern and its 283rd-ranked ERA in the country.
A tougher test awaits over the next week. Texas, ranked No. 23 in the country by D1Baseball, opens a four-game series at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Thursday against No. 7 Stanford. Then the Longhorns have a trip scheduled at No. 5 Arkansas next week.
Stanford (2.08) ranks 11th nationally in team ERA. Arkansas (1.78) is fifth.
“I think we need to see what we can do with these types of teams,” infielder Kody Clemens said. “It will be a test for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Clemens, who has recorded at least one base hit in every game this season, has led the offensive charge for the Longhorns, who are averaging 6.5 runs a game. His 12-game hitting streak is well off Michael Torres’ school record streak of 25 games but is a personal best for Clemens.
Clemens has hit a team-high three home runs. He’s second in RBIs (13) and runs scored (11). As of Wednesday, only five players in the Big 12 were hitting better than his .436 clip.
But Clemens also has shown admirable patience at the plate. His 14 walks lead the conference and have boosted Clemens’ on-base percentage to .585, which ranks 15th nationally and falls just behind the .588 percentage posted by TCU’s Josh Watson.
Additionally, Clemens has stuck out only three times. The two players that typically hit ahead of him in the lineup — David Hamilton and Masen Hibbeler — have posted 8-to-6 and 7-to-6 walks-to-strikeout ratios. Texas last had a player record more walks than strikeouts in 2014 when Mark Payton and Brooks Marlow accomplished the feat.
“Any man on base is a good man on base,” said Clemens, who bats third. “Those walks definitely come in clutch when you just give your bat to the next guy on deck.”
Clemens isn’t on a pace to challenge Coby Kerlin’s UT record of 112 walks. But he easily could out-distance his 2017 mark of 29 free passes (against 32 strikeouts).
Clemens has focused this year on not swinging at bad pitches, which he admits is “harder than you think.” Batting from the left side of the plate, he said he focuses on the pitcher’s release point.
Those walks — three of which have been intentional — have benefited the rest of UT’s lineup. In a 5-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 17, Austin Todd hit a walk-off home run after Clemens was pitched around. Todd and Zach Zubia have combined to go 5 for 13 with 8 RBIs in the at-bats following a Clemens walk.
“It’s about the middle of the order maintaining discipline,” UT coach David Pierce said. “It’s each individual having a quality at-bat and then passing the bat. If we can do that, we’ve got a chance to be offensive.”
As a team, Texas has drawn 69 walks. This spring, good eyes and patience at the plate have also been exhibited on the other side of Comal Street; heading into UT softball’s game at UT-San Antonio, freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson hadn’t had a strikeout in 62 plate appearances. Meanwhile, MK Tedder’s 13 walks rank second in the Big 12.
Tedder, a freshman third baseman, said her patience is rooted in preparation.
“My patience at the plate comes from sticking to the plan I have when I head into an at-bat,” Tedder said. “If the pitch I want to hit isn’t there, then I don’t need to press. Sometimes it happens to be a ball, and if enough of those come across, then I’ll take a walk.”
This week’s series
No. 7 Stanford at No. 23 Texas, Thursday-Sunday, UFCU Disch-Falk Field, LHN, 104.9, 1260
Thursday (6:30 p.m.): Texas RHP Nico O’Donnell (1-0, 1.04) vs. RHP Tristan Beck (2-0, 1.50)
Friday (6:30 p.m.): Texas RHP Nolan Kingham (2-1, 3.57) vs. LHP Kris Bubic (2-0, 1.56)
Saturday (2:30 p.m.): Texas RHP Blair Henley (2-0, 0.53) vs. LHP Erik Miller (0-1, 4.22)
Sunday (1 p.m.): Texas RHP Chase Shugart (0-1, 5.19) vs. Stanford TBA
Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect the current school record-holder for walks in a season. It’s held by Coby Kerlin, who had 112 walks in 1985.