Though he may be a stately 56 years old, Roger Clemens is no slouch. The seven-time Cy Young winner, who sat consistently in the low-to-mid 80’s throughout his outing, started the day for the alumni, and while he may have only pitched one inning, the electricity from his appearance was felt throughout Disch-Falk Field.
The more recent Clemenses brought their own personalities back to The Disch for another round, as well, but neither quite brought the bravado of Dad, who left his appearance to a standing ovation. In a game that the current Texas squad won 7-4, with all the fun had, it was easy to forget score was even kept at all.
But while the return of the alumni is special in its own way, the game truly is about preparing for the start of the 2019 season, which is only a couple weeks out. While some questions that still surround the team cannot possibly be answered until the season does roll around, the game did provide some interesting information to speculate over.
The Tate Shaw-to-first base experiment played out in full over the course of the game as Shaw got every rep at the position for the current squad on Saturday. While he only committed one error, it was clear that he, at least at this point, wasn’t very comfortable at the position. As the team’s most gifted outfielder defensively, it was puzzling that head coach David Pierce would make the possibility of moving Shaw to first base a reality.
After watching freshman outfielder Eric Kennedy, though, it’s easy to see why. Pierce gushed over Kennedy and said that he’s a player that he has to get in the lineup.
“(Eric) Kennedy’s been coming,” Pierce said. “Eric is just powerful and can run. He’s a guy that’s working his way into the lineup for sure”
On a multi-hit day, Kennedy also showcased his major pop on a laser home run off of Connor Mayes that left the park in a hurry. It’s easy to see why he has gained so much attention from his coaches and teammates and he has the makings to be a very, very special player.
The most impressive performance of the day, however, belonged to sophomore pitcher Bryce Elder. Seen as a long reliever in 2018, Elder was one of the potential players that was in the running to make the jump to weekend starter. After Saturday, though, his sights may be set on Blair Henley’s job as Friday night starter.
Elder was near perfect as he went scoreless through 3.2 innings and struck out four of his final five batters. The only pitcher to get significant time, Elder took full advantage as he displayed more developed control to go along with a fast ball that sat around 93 MPH.
Pierce called him “by far the most impressive pitcher of the day.” And Elder wasn’t shy about his desire to take over the role of a starting pitcher.
“I think (being the Friday night starter) is what everybody works for unless you’re a bullpen guy,” Elder said. “I like starting. I like getting in a routine.”
Bertelson’s Big Blast
Sophomore infielder Sam Bertelson, who went hitless during every at-bat of his last season, started off the game with a bang.
In the top of the second inning, Bertelson took Henley way deep out to right center. One of farther home runs you will ever see at The Disch, Bertelson’s power potential has to make Pierce and his staff salivate at the thought of getting him more at-bats.
With an opening at first base, one has to wonder whether Bertelson’s ability to drive the ball out of the park will help him win the position or at least give him a small advantage. While fans may have been surprised to see Bertelson hit a ball like that, Pierce wasn’t necessarily surprised.
“(Sam Bertelson’s) batting practice is so powerful,” Pierce said. “Then it becomes just about timing and swinging at the right pitches. He’s got major, major power”
Texas will begin regular season play in Lafayette, La. against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Friday Feb. 15th.
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