Baseball thoughts: Clemens family, Cooper pace Horns to 9-3 win over OU

UFCU Disch-Falk Field before OU (Joe Cook/IT)

UFCU Disch-Falk Field before OU (Joe Cook/IT)

While many of you were watching Jordan Spieth put together a great -4 round on moving day at Augusta, the Horns took game two and the series from the Oklahoma Sooners.

Thanks to @bouree and @PearlandHorn for letting me hang with them in the stands for a little bit today. Here are some quick thoughts from the game.

1. Quick response – Junior starter Morgan Cooper did not start out with his best stuff on Saturday. In the first inning, Cooper loaded the bases before even recording an out. OU took advantage with a 2 RBI single to put the Sooners ahead before the Horns could even bat. But, as Texas has done several times this season, they responded. Travis Jones reached second on a double and moved to third on a passed ball. Senior Kacy Clemens began the Texas scoring output with a single to cut the Sooner lead in half.

2. Big day for the Clemens family – Sophomore DH Kody Clemens would temporarily match his brother’s RBI output when a fly ball to left field got caught in the stiff wind blowing out. It carried just enough for it to fly over the left field fence, tying the game at two apiece. Not to be outdone by baby brother, Kacy Clemens made sure he had five times the RBIs Kody did when the day was done. Following a two out rally that included a David Hamilton walk, a Kody Clemens double, and a Tate Shaw RBI single, Kacy came up with the bases loaded. With a left hander warming up in the bullpen, OU and pitching coach Skip Johnston decided to keep the right hander in and Kacy punished the decision with a grand slam over the right centerfield fence. The shot put Texas up 7-2, and gave Morgan Cooper plenty of insurance to work with.

3. Additional scoring – Texas added two more runs thanks to another OU fielding mistake. Shaw grounded to the right side on a ball I thought clearly belonged to the second baseman. The first baseman took one step to the ball, but then didn’t move, likely assuming the pitcher would cover the bag. He didn’t, and Ryan Reynolds scored the eighth Texas run. Texas would cap off their scoring when Travis Jones beat out a possible double play ball allowing Hamilton to score.

4. Pitching effectively enough to win – Cooper struggled in the first, but began to return to his normal form as the game went on. He didn’t carry the high strikeout total he normally does, but Cooper kept his walk total down (2) and struck out seven to earn his fourth win of the season. One of the few negatives for the Horns was Nick Kennedy’s performance. Kennedy has been one of the few reliable arms in the pen for Texas this year, but today was a different story. He walked both batters he faced and didn’t record an out before being replaced by freshman Blair Henley. In his first career relief appearance, Henley pitched 2.1 perfect innings to close out the series win. Since Henley threw today, Kyle Johnston returns to a starting role tomorrow in an attempt to earn the sweep.

Bonus thought: The defense we’ve seen from Hamilton and Reynolds this season has been nothing short of spectacular. Hamilton is a difference maker on the basepaths and with the glove, just needs to work the bat. Reynolds is growing and maturing with each game.

Quotes via UT:

Head Coach David Pierce
On the win:
First of all, we got behind early and showed our character today. It was huge for us just to gain a run here, gain another on the home run by Kody to even it back up and then get back in a pitchers’ duel. Morgan Cooper was as good as he can throw it today, and he did it at a time when we really needed it.

On the offense responding with two outs:
It’s just about having a quality at-bat, and that pitch is the only one that matters then. I thought we got the big blow because of the great at-bats in front of it. Nobody really tried to do too much and we got an opportunity to get Kacy in there and he got a pitch and he was ready and did a great job with it.

On getting the series win and having the opportunity to sweep:
It’s great. I just had a quick meeting with them and made them understand how tough the league is. When you have the opportunity to do this, we’ve got to relish it and take advantage of it. We’ll be ready to go. We’ve got fresh arms and we’re looking forward to playing a tough game tomorrow.

On the difference in attitude this week:
We came out of Kansas and we had a pretty good meeting of just, ‘Quit trying so hard, and really relax and trust yourself.’ I noticed our practice this week was outstanding, and it wasn’t like we grinded more. We just had a little fresher attitude about ourselves and quit putting so much pressure on ourselves, and that comes with growth.

On the fans:
The crowd and the atmosphere the last two days is what you really imagine when you talk about Texas baseball. It’s been a lot of fun. And then to really perform and play well for the crowd hopefully has their interest of coming back tomorrow.

Sophomore Infielder Kody Clemens
On his home run:
I’ve got to give it to Mo [Morgan]. After that first inning, he kept putting those zeros up on the board and let us fight back and get those runs back. I love, obviously, hitting home runs. It was a good win for sure.

On Kacy’s grand slam:
It’s funny, we always get on each other in the dugout. I’m like, ‘Dude, you keep getting these home runs and I’m trying to catch up to you. Every time I hit one, it seems like you hit one right after me.’ We kind of just chase each other, and it’s a good time. Hopefully we keep doing that and keep hitting home runs.

On what it means to him and his brother to both get home runs:
It’s awesome. It’s something not many people can say they’ve done in their life, hitting a home run with your brother in the same game. Fortunately this is the second time we’ve done it, versus K-State last year. It’s just a really special moment to have with my big brother, with him leaving next year. It’s awesome to get that done, especially against the Sooners.

On getting a series win against the Sooners:
We’ve been talking about RPI in the locker room with Coach, and these are obviously two big RPI wins for us, and hopefully it’ll get our rank lower. It for sure will, and hopefully we can take it tomorrow as well.

Senior First Baseman Kacy Clemens
On being one of the stars of the game along with his brother:
It’s something obviously we’re going to talk to our kids about when we’re 50 and having kids and stuff. It’s definitely a special moment, something that not a lot of kids get to do. We’re just cherishing it to the fullest.

On his grand slam:
It actually got in on me a little bit. I didn’t fully get the barrel to it, but I knew that I got enough of it. Off the bat, I thought for sure double, it’s probably going to hit the wall. When you’re rounding the bases and you’re looking for the ball to come down below the wall and then it goes over, obviously I was very excited and fired up.

On getting the series win against Oklahoma:
Like Coach said, it’s a players’ league. Everybody’s talented; every game is tough to win, regardless of who you’re playing. So tomorrow’s a big one. We’ve got to come out fired up and when we get the chance to sweep, we’ve got to bring our best and do it. So hopefully we’ll come out fired up and relaxed and keep playing the baseball we’re playing right now.