With two aces on the mound at a pitcher-friendly ballpark, Longhorn fans didn’t expect to see a lot of scoring on Friday afternoon between Texas and Connecticut.
But senior first baseman Kacy Clemens had other plans. With junior catcher Michael Cantu on second base, Connecticut’s sophomore left-hander Tim Cate left a ball in Clemens’ wheelhouse for a little too long.
The senior batter made Cate pay. Clemens drove the ball over the right field fence to clinch a two-run lead for Texas during the fourth inning. Those two runs proved to be the difference in a 4-1 Texas win at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“I was just trying to have a productive at bat, get him over somehow to get things going,” Clemens said. “He just left that curve a little bit up and I was able to backspin it out of here.”
But Clemens decided his first home run wasn’t enough entertainment for burnt orange fans. The first baseman crushed another homer during his next at bat in the sixth inning and hit the Taco Shack target in right field. Longhorn fans enjoyed a four-run lead with a side of free tacos. Clemens joked with his father Roger Clemens after the game about his productive night at the plate.
“My dad said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to dinner,” Clemens said. “I said, ‘Why are we going to pay for dinner? I provided it.’”
Head coach David Pierce attributed the spark of his team’s momentum to senior outfielder Zane Gurwitz’ timely throw from center field to third base to complete a double play after catching a fly out. Friday’s game marked Gurwitz’ first outing of the season after missing time with a hamstring injury.
“You see what we’ve been missing from Zane,” Pierce said. “Not only his senior presence and leadership, but he’s got great ability. He made a couple plays that looked easy, and then the assist was just an exceptional throw.”
Cantu also had a big night in the batter’s box. He connected with the ball for two singles and a double to collect a total of three hits as the Longhorns’ clean-up batter.
“I thought he had great at bats all night,” Pierce said. “The thing with Michael is that he’s full of confidence right now. I think a lot of that had to do with the big (home run) that he had at Sam Houston State.”
Redshirt junior pitcher Morgan Cooper found success on the other side of the ball for the Longhorns. The right-hander rung up eight Husky batters for strikeouts and only allowed one run during his seven-inning outing.
Cooper picked up his first win of the season against Cate, who only threw 3.2 innings on Friday despite having a 13-strikeout performance through 7.1 innings during his first start of the season against Massachusetts Lowell.
“You’ve got to be on top of your game and know that the guy across from you is pretty good,” Cooper said. “I think it makes you focus a little bit more and you know going into it that it’s going to be a battle. I think it makes you better.”
The Longhorns look to build off their big win as they return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday at 2 p.m. to continue their three-game series against Connecticut.
“I think it’s good,” Clemens said. “We knocked out their best guy. Let’s see who they’ve got tomorrow and see if we could match up well with them.”