Technically, Alyson Clemente broke the Bradley softball home run record 15 days before she officially did.
On March 19, the redshirt senior first baseman officially broke Alycia Bachkora’s five-year-old record against Indiana State with a two-out blast, but Clemente still remembers the record-breaker that didn’t count.
“That home run didn’t count since that game didn’t count,” she said.
The game in subject was against the Kent State Golden Flashes, which was washed away by the rain with only one out away from existing.
“I hit the [record-breaking] home run in the bottom of the fifth,” Clemente said. “We had one out left, but then it just started downpouring, so the umpires called the game.”
However, to Clemente, the at-bat that never existed epitomized something the senior had worked for since her freshman year.
“I think that at bat … I was kind of aggressive,” Clemente said. “That mindset stuck with me on being aggressive, and not regretting any swing that I take or anything that I’ve been doing.”
However, that mindset was a work in progress from the time Clemente played at Murrieta Valley High School and throughout her five years on the Hilltop.
Her high school coach, Sean Parks, and his wife not only coached Clemente, but her two older sisters as well.
According to Parks, there was one thing that set the youngest Clemente apart from the ones who played before her.
“It was something that she really was passionate about,” Parks said. “Her sisters were good players, too, but that’s what [Alyson] wanted to do. She wanted to play in college.”
It was also evident early on that Clemente was a power hitter, as Parks said even in high school Clemente’s strength was a marvel compared to her teammates.
“She was a good all around player,” Parks said. “But she definitely drove the ball and it wasn’t surprising when she hit home runs.”
In high school, Clemente mainly played first base, but when she reached the college level, head coach Amy Hayes placed her in the outfield to start.
“When [Clemente] came here, they stuck her in the outfield because [the coaches] knew she could hit,” Hayes said. “We saw a little bit more in Aly than that.”
Hayes subsequently moved Clemente to first base, where she’s become a fixture for the Braves.
The move to first base also forced Clemente to develop more than just physically, as she had to develop other aspects of the game.
“It was just kind of a challenge to step up,” Clemente said. “You have to be very vocal with the team and the outfield.”
Even when she rehabbed a torn ACL, which she suffered before the 2015 season began, Clemente did all she could to help the team while sitting on the sidelines.
“I still was at every practice and our games and stuff, so I have a different perspective than a lot of the players do because I got to see it from the other side,” Clemente said. “I try not to coach too much, but if I see something I’ll just tell someone.”
Even the torn ACL couldn’t keep Clemente from seeing the good in the situation.
“I like to say it was the best-worst day of my life,” she said. “At the time it felt terrible, but it took me about a week to get over it, and then after that it was just, ‘Alright, this is just an opportunity for me to learn from another step.’”
On paper, Clemente has taken a gigantic leap forward in the 2016 season.
She’s second on the team with a .350 batting average, compared to her 2014 average of .298, which was the last season she played before her injury.
She’s also hit eight homers, compared to seven in 2014.
Yet, with her hitting prowess on full display, and much to the dismay of her former coaches, Clemente insists her hitting isn’t a gift.
“My first six games of my college career my freshman year, I didn’t touch the ball,” Clemente said. “It’s just a mindset in that using what you’ve been taught.”
However, Hayes disagrees with that, while Parks is split down the middle.
“She has the power,” Hayes said. “The one thing we have to say to her sometimes, she’s got to stay within herself a little bit because she’s looking to drive the ball every single time.”
“It’s a combination of both [being skilled and gifted],” Parks said. “There a lot of people that have athletic gifts that do nothing with it. She was blessed with athletic talent, but she also worked extremely hard to get where she’s at.”
Gifted or not, Clemente is showcasing extreme skill in her final season as a Brave. That skill is the culmination of four years of training and an abundance of change.
“There’s a maturity that has developed, obviously, that’s what you want,” Hayes said. “She has, in a sense, changed her mindset, changed her body, changed everything. She’s really developed into her own person.”