Despite missing the first four games of the season due to weather, the Mankato East baseball team is off to a fantastic start thanks in large part to ace, Jack Clifford.

Rob Clark has more on why the Cougar lefty is our KEYC News 12 prep athlete of the week  brought to you by Scheels.

"The thing with Jack is when he's hitting his spots, he's tough to beat. Not an overpowering pitcher, but he does hit his spots and mix things up pretty well. We look for him to have a big year, he's definitely the leader on this team, and we'll go as he goes," said Cory Smith, Mankato East head coach.

Jack Clifford opened up his junior campaign with a dominant outing against cross town rival, Mankato West.

The southpaw tossed five innings with eight K's.

"That first start, eight strikeouts. I don't remember when I did that last, that was kind of crazy for me, and I'm just excited for the season to come and see what happens," said Clifford, prep athlete of the week.

The junior does a great job of keeping hitters off balance with a variety of pitches he can throw in any count.

"Throw my fastball probably, and set them up with my curveball and cutter to strike them out," said Clifford.

At the plate, Clifford's become a dangerous hitter  capable of spraying the ball to all parts of the field.

"Just confidence up at the plate. I think that's a big thing for me as a player, and for the pitcher to see on the mound, just me being confident. That plays a big role in it," said Clifford.

"Jack's unique, he's a free spirit, he's happy, he's go lucky, he's energetic, makes practice fun, and I think it's benefited our program a lot. Not always the most serious guy, sometimes I have to tell him to focus, but I think that rubs off good for our guys. He has that upbeat attitude, and always willing to work hard and do the extra stuff. He's dedicated his high school career to living in the weight room when he's not on the baseball or football field, and I think that's helped him become a complete hitter," said Smith.

Clifford's leadership and game changing ability are why he's our KEYC News 12 prep athlete of the week brought to you by Scheels.