By Dave Wagner
Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger doesn’t want to just settle for making the playoffs, he’s more interested in winning the district crown.
The Cats (14-9, 6-3 district) enter the weekend tied for the district lead with Carlsbad (15-7, 6-3), but the Cavemen hold the tiebreaker after taking two of three in games in Carlsbad.
Clovis can clinch a second-straight state playoff berth — after going 40 years without making the playoffs — by taking two of three games at home against Hobbs (11-12, 3-6), which has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Shallenberger would like to put the onus on Carlsbad.
“Our focus this weekend isn’t just to win one game,” he said. “We need to try to win three games to win the district, if Carlsbad loses one game.”
Even one Clovis win over Hobbs might be enough to eliminate third-place Eldorado (12-12, 7-5), which has already finished district play. Carlsbad would also have to lose twice this weekend to last-place Manzano.
In that event, the top three teams would have 3-3 records against each other. Hobbs would be the next tiebreaker as the fourth-place team, and the Cats would lose out there because Carlsbad swept the Eagles and Eldorado took two of three.
Just because the Eagles have been eliminated from playoff contention doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take some satisfaction from knocking Clovis out of the playoffs when the teams meet in a 4 p.m. doubleheader today at Bell Park. The teams meet against at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We know Hobbs is going to come in here doing everything they can to not allow us to make the playoffs,” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
But the Cats aren’t concerned about anything like that.
“I think we need to sweep them,” junior catcher Richard Urban said. “That first game is going to be the most important, because they’ve got their No. 1 (pitcher) going against us. But if we can win that game, I think we’ve got a good chance to win the next two.”
The teams met in the fifth-place game of the Cats’ season-opening invitational on March 1, with Clovis winning 10-2. But Hobbs has since regained the services of catcher Alan Tuttle (basketball) and first baseman-pitcher Jason Tyler (injury).
“Once Tuttle got out of basketball and got back with them, they started playing better,” Shallenberger said. “We’re going to have to play our game to be successful, which is getting runners on base and making things happen.”
Last week, Clovis bounced back from a devastating 11-5 loss on Friday at Eldorado — the Eagles erased a 5-0 deficit with three homers and 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth — to sweep the Saturday doubleheader and place themselves in strong position in the district.
“That tested our character, and our kids responded,” Shallenberger said.
“We knew if we didn’t win those two games, we wouldn’t have had a chance (to make the postseason),” Urban said. “That’s what drove us. We knew what we had to do, and we got it done.”
Senior right-hander Darren Davis is expected to start today’s first game, probably against the Eagles’ Adam Greer. Shallenberger will likely go with juniors Robert Riggins and Mark Young in the other games, but he isn’t sure in which order they’ll pitch.