BY MICHAEL KELLY
CORTLAND — Some things don’t get old.
For Austin Clock, hearing about the way last year’s baseball season ended is one of those things.
Nine straight wins. A 2-0 series sweep of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the NCAA Division III World Series. SUNY Cortland’s first-ever national championship.
Clock, now a senior, said the buzz hasn’t quieted down yet about the way last season ended. Everywhere his team goes, he said, there’s an alumni member or a baseball fan looking to hear about the Red Dragons memorable ride from a season ago.
“It’s been awesome,” said Clock, a 2012 Niskayuna High School graduate. “I’m glad it’s like that.”
That’s partially because there was so much to be proud of from last season, in which Cortland won a program-record 45 games against four losses. But Clock said hearing about last year’s championship is the best motivation possible for this year’s club.
“You can’t shy away from it,” Clock said.
Cortland won a program-record 45 games last season on its way to a long-coveted national title. This season, Cortland won 18 of its first 21 games through March 28 and was ranked No. 2 in the latest national poll.
On the field, Clock said his squad tries to carry itself like a team needing to prove itself. Meanwhile, opposing clubs are regularly throwing their best pitchers and skipping off days for position players when they take on Cortland.
“We know everyone is giving us their best shot,” Clock said. “Everyone is coming for us. There’s a big target on our back.”
Weeks into the season, Clock said Cortland has gotten use to that. At first, he said, that wasn’t the case. This past fall, the Red Dragons struggled to show the fire it needed to get the most out of themselves.
“It was a little more difficult. We didn’t have as good a fall as we wanted,” said Clock, a senior captain and first baseman. “I think we were a little caught up in winning the national championship, but we bounced back and had a good lifting season in the winter and then a good preseason.”
After spending his first two collegiate seasons as a reserve, Clock broke out as a junior last season and hit .317 with 14 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs. This season, Clock has been even better. Through his team’s first 21 games, the senior has knocked in a team-high 23 RBIs and scored a club-best 21 runs. Clock’s three home runs are tied for the team lead, while his .397 batting average is the club’s second-best mark.
Off the field, things are even better for the former Silver Warrior. Set to graduate in May with his degree in sport management, Clock academic work this semester is to serve as an intern in the school’s athletic department. His main focus is promoting the school’s teams through social media, helping connect the school’s alumni to its teams.
“I’m living the life,” said Clock, laughing.
After completing his undergraduate work, Clock said he wants to return to Cortland for graduate school and continue working toward his goal of becoming a high school athletic director. Coaching could be in his future, too, and that’s a profession he’s going to try out this summer as an assistant for the Vermont Mountaineers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Before any of that, though, Clock has a senior baseball season of his own to finish off. Ending this season the same way as last season, he said, is the unspoken goal for the Red Dragons.
“We don’t need to write it down to set it,” Clock said. “It’s known.”