Kody Clemens had finally settled in.
The freshman entered head coach Augie Garrido’s program in the fall with a roster spot, but no position. After shuffling throughout the infield in fall practice — taking pit stops at second base, shortstop and third base — Clemens was penciled in as Garrido’s everyday third baseman to start the year.
Clemens scuffled at the hot corner at the beginning of the season with two errors in his first three games. But as the Longhorns’ defense deteriorated throughout their nonconference slate, Clemens trended in the opposite direction. Showing increased range and a cannon arm, Clemens became a stalwart at third.
“It took some getting used to, but I kept working hard,” Clemens said of playing third base. “Staying after practice and taking those extra ground balls really helped my progression.”
But Texas dropped five of six contests in mid-March. The Longhorns’ porous defense plagued them throughout, hampering a team hoping to repeat as Big 12 champions.
Garrido needed to make a change. And just as he was getting comfortable at third, Clemens was on the move. The two spoke about moving Clemens to shortstop, but were reluctant about moving him midway through the year.
“He had put in significant time at third,” Garrido said. “But he’s played with a lot more confidence at short. He’s provided us with good range and consistency on the plays you’d expect a shortstop to make.”
After some deliberation, a decision was made. Clemens moved to shortstop, replacing redshirt sophomore Brett Boswell who moved to DH.
The switch came naturally for Clemens. Occupying the middle infield is far from foreign territory, as Clemens played shortstop throughout his time at Memorial High School in Houston.
“It’s not that big of a transition,” Clemens said. “I played shortstop in high school, and I feel confident there. I was learning a lot at third, but everything feels more natural now.”
Clemens was replaced at third by junior Tres Barrera, and his double play partner junior Zane Gurwitz came to second from center field. Garrido’s reshuffled infield surrounded Clemens with three juniors, all veterans of the Longhorns program.
Despite his own lack of experience, Clemens has fit right in. Constant chatter can be heard in the Longhorns’ infield, with much of it coming from Clemens.
“He’s right there with them, because he’s a baseball player,” Garrido said. “There’s so many discussions you can have in an infield before the pitch, and he’s in every one of them.”
Clemens has no errors en route to a perfect fielding percentage through five games at shortstop entering this weekend’s series with Oklahoma. For the second time this season, it looks as though Clemens has finally settled in.