On a night when multiple players registered six RBIs, none of them were the main story. Sometimes truly special games are reserved for truly special players.
During a shortened seven-inning home game against UT-Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, in which the Longhorns won 13-2, senior first baseman extraordinaire Jake McKenzie played all nine positions, including closing the game out on the mound. McKenzie, who has been the definition of a role player since his arrival at Texas, finally got his moment on Tuesday night.
“It’s obviously a pretty humbling experience that (Texas head coach David Pierce) would give me that honor to be able to play all nine in one game,” McKenzie said. “He’s putting himself out on a limb doing that, maybe jeopardizing a Tuesday game. It’s a huge honor. I appreciate my teammates. They were all pretty excited for me, which was cool to see.”
After seeing McKenzie penciled into the starting lineup at catcher, many expected that the move was just to secure him playing time at every position during his tenure at Texas, a goal Pierce mentioned earlier in the season.
McKenzie, who earned his first-career start behind home plate, used a total of five gloves throughout the course of the night, including the catcher’s mitt he barely found and had to dust off.
McKenzie began his career with the Longhorns as a walk-on who steadily found his way to more regular playing time. He has thrived this season as the Longhorns’ everyday first baseman. Pierce, who made the decision to play McKenzie the way he did, said the plan wasn’t meant with any contempt for UTRGV — it was in honor of a player who has done so much for his team.
“Tonight was not any disrespect to Rio Grande Valley and definitely not any disrespect to baseball,” Pierce said. “It was a tribute to our true utility guy. And that was exciting to watch. (I’m) really excited we pulled it off. Great job by the team.”
The plan was aided by a seven-run second inning that began with a two-run, 408-foot blast by sophomore shortstop David Hamilton. It was Hamilton’s second homer of the year and the second of his career.
Kody Clemens, Texas’ junior All-American second baseman, was not to be outdone. Later on in the inning, he came through in the biggest way possible. After junior infielder Masen Hibbeler was walked to load the bases, Clemens launched a ball into the right-field bullpen for his second grand slam of the season.
Clemens, who now has 12 home runs this season, is tied with his brother — former Texas first baseman Kacy Clemens — with the most home runs by a Longhorn in the BBCOR era. Kody, who said he has yet to talk to Kacy about the feat, couldn’t help but smile when asked about approaching the topic.
“I’m definitely going to say something to him tonight,” Kody said. “I’m just going to mess with him. We’ll see.”
Hamilton and Clemens did the majority of the damage for Texas (25–14, 11–4 Big 12), combining for 12 of the team’s 13 runs. Once again, the duo showed why they are considered one of the country’s best middle-infield pair.
But even still, it felt like on Tuesday they were overshadowed by McKenzie — a former walk-on petroleum engineering student, who has never hit a home run.
Guess that’s just the way baseball goes.