BY MICHAEL KELLY
CORTLAND — Standing in the left-handed batter’s box in the bottom of the 12th inning during an April 3 game, SUNY Cortland’s Austin Clock had no worries. Yes, he was 0 for 5 at the plate to that point, but the junior from Niskayuna was confident he could get the game-winning run in from third base.
Facing a College at Brockport pitcher, Clock let one fastball pass before unleashing a swing on a hanging breaking ball. Seconds after the sound of the collision of ball and bat, Clock and his teammates got to celebrate.
“I just sat on the slider, hit it in the gap, line drive — and that was it,” said Clock, who sealed a 3-2 win for Cortland. The victory was the seventh in a row for the squad, which was 18-1 through April 6 and ranked No. 2 in the country through the end of March.
“I was up there, no worries,” he said of the crucial at-bat.
Confidence is the attribute Clock had most improved coming into this season. As a freshman and sophomore, he rarely got to play; in his first two collegiate seasons, the 2012 Niskayuna High School graduate registered a total of 51 at-bats for head coach Joe Brown’s team. Slotted behind Max Rosing, a three-year starter who graduated in 2014, Clock was patient in waiting for his turn to man first base for Cortland.
“It was different,” he said of playing a bench role. “I embraced the role, though. I liked being the guy in the dugout with energy, trying to help the team any way that I could. . . . It was such a learning experience, so humbling.”
With Rosing leaving the program, Clock knew the opportunity to become a starter was there for him in 2015 — and Rosing helped him get ready for his chance. He connected Clock with the Newark Pilots, a club in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, and Clock spent his 2014 summer gaining experience. As a starter for Newark, he hit .303 and came back to Cortland in the fall full of confidence.
“That really took my game to the next level,” he said.
“He needed to go out there and increase his confidence. That’s what he needed,” said Brown. “When he came back here in the fall, it was go time.”
Clock has been a key cog for Cortland as a junior. Through April 6, he had played in a team-high 18 games, and was hitting .297 with 12 RBIs in 64 at-bats. “I’ve had more at-bats this season than I did in the last two years combined,” he said.
After a couple of years waiting for his chance to shine, Clock has taken advantage of his opportunity. Once a bench warmer, he is now one of the top players on one of the nation’s best Division III baseball squads.
“It’s all worth it in the end,” he said.
Before 2015, Austin Clock was a bit player for the SUNY Cortland baseball team. Here is a comparison of his combined 2013-2014 statistics and his performance in the first 19 games this season:
- Games played: 51 vs. 18
- Games started: 0 vs/ 17
- At-bats: 51 vs. 64
- Hits: 15 vs. 19
- RBIs: 9 vs. 12
- Runs scored: 8 vs. 13
- Walks: 4 vs. 6