Growing up playing baseball, Ernie Clement always took an aggressive approach to the plate.

He likes to swing at the first pitch and be aggressive in the strike zone. And it’s worked — the Rochester, N.Y., native set multiple school records at Brighton High School, including career batting average (.464).

Clement earned an offer from Virginia, and continued his career in Charlottesville. While there, Clement’s approach helped lead to a profoundly low strikeout rate. During three years with the Cavaliers, Clement struck out just 31 times in 745 at-bats.

After his junior year in 2017, Clement was drafted in the fourth round by the Indians. His approach, honed as he’s progressed, has continued to pay off as he works his way through the minor leagues.

It’s the right mix of discipline and aggression.

“I keep my approach simple, I just try to get on base any way I can,” Clement said. “Whether it’s hit by a pitch or a walk or a base hit, it doesn’t really matter because I know the guys behind me are going to hit me in.”

Clement reached Double-A last year, his first full season of pro baseball, with the Akron RubberDucks. He rejoined Akron this year and has been in Richmond for the RubberDucks’ four-game series against the Flying Squirrels at The Diamond.

As Clement came up, and put up the blistering numbers at Brighton, UVA was always his No. 1 choice of school, he said. Before his senior year, Clement played in a tournament in Charlottesville, and after the tournament, the Cavaliers extended an offer.

Clement started right away as a freshman in 2015. That June, he hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning of a super regional game against Maryland, which punched UVA’s ticket to the College World Series. The Cavaliers went on to win it.

After racking up 92 hits as a sophomore, which is tied for third-most in UVA single-season history, Clement ended his junior year with a rate of 36.3 at-bats per strikeout — which made him the toughest in the nation to strikeout that season.

Even with the discipline he’s shown, Clement still didn’t draw many walks through his time at UVA. He had 35 in his 745 at-bats with the Cavaliers.

So Clement said he’s had to learn the strike zone and his own strengths as a hitter, as he’s progressed. Gaining additional plate discipline has been his focus the last couple of offseasons, and he’s seen growth in that area. Last year, Clement drew 41 walks in 419 at-bats.

Clement also saw his batting average jump from .280 in 2017 to .289 in 2018, while his strikeout percentage last year (7.4 according to FanGraphs) was the 11th-lowest in the minors.

The Indians invited Clement to spring training earlier this year, but his season with Akron has been abbreviated. The shortstop went on the injured list in April, with an abductor strain. He was activated May 9.

But RubberDucks manager Rouglas Odor sees Clement as an everyday player in the big leagues one day.

“He’s a high-energy, player, plays the game with a lot of intensity,” Clement said. “He’s going to give everything he has day in and day out. He’ll make a lot of contact. He’s going to steal bases, he’s going to make defensive plays.”

Clement, meanwhile, continues to keep in touch with coach Brian O’Connor and UVA. He got to see the Cavaliers play while at spring training, when they participated in a tournament in Arizona.

On the field, Clement said he takes pride in being a tough out. It’s a trait that’s defined him throughout his career.

“I think the more unselfish you can be at the plate, and really have team at-bats, I think that’s really important,” Clement said. “And then you can kind of let everything else take care of itself.”

Saturday’s game: Before a nearly sold-out crowd of 9,243 at The Diamond, the Flying Squirrels beat the RubberDucks 5-2 on Saturday night, snapping a four-game skid. After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, Richmond (13-25) jumped ahead with a three-run fifth. Johneshwy Fargas scored on an error, and Jalen Miller and Jacob Heyward singled in a run apiece.

Richmond and Akron (19-22) conclude their series at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.

RubberDucks AB R H BI W K AVG

Clement SS 3 0 1 0 1 0 .195

Rodriguez 1B 4 1 2 0 0 1 .323

Johnson CF 3 1 1 0 1 2 .279

Garcia DH 4 0 1 2 0 0 .245

Marabell LF 4 0 1 0 0 0 .237

Tom RF 4 0 0 0 0 3 .221

Krieger 3B 3 0 1 0 1 0 .218

Ice C 4 0 0 0 0 0 .137

Pantoja 2B 4 0 0 0 0 0 .242

Totals 33 2 7 2 3 6 .234

2B: Johnson (7, Lawson); Clement (3, Lawson). RBI: Garcia, W 2 (29). LOB: 7. CS: Clement (1). E: Johnson (1); Ice (1).

Flying Squirrels AB R H BI W K AVG

McElroy CF 4 0 1 0 0 1 .250

Shaw DH 4 1 0 0 0 2 .256

Miller 2B 4 1 1 1 0 2 .254

Heyward LF 4 0 1 1 0 1 .279

Houchins 1B 4 0 1 0 0 1 .250

Arenado 3B 4 1 3 0 0 0 .303

Van Horn SS 2 0 0 0 1 0 .036

Marte C 4 0 1 0 0 1 .190

Fargas RF 2 2 1 0 1 0 .229

Totals 32 5 9 2 2 8 .228

RBI: Heyward (15); Miller (14). SAC: Van Horn. LOB: 7. SB: McElroy (1); Marte, H (1). CS: Arenado, J (3).

Akron 200 000 000 — 2 7 2

Richmond 001 031 00X — 5 9 0

RubberDucks IP H R ER W K ERA

Tully L, 3-4 51/3 8 5 1 0 4 3.50

Nelson 12/3 0 0 0 1 3 0.00

Eubank 1 1 0 0 1 1 7.11

Flying Squirrels IP H R ER W K ERA

Lawson 4 7 2 2 2 2 4.35

Lovegrove W, 2-2 2 0 0 0 0 2 7.24

Cyr 1 0 0 0 1 1 2.70

Moll S, 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 2.45

WP: Nelson, K. HBP: Fargas (by Tully).

T: 2:45. Att: 9,243.

wepps@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6442

@wayneeppsjr

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