ALBUQUERQUE — After relying on the long ball all season, La Cueva found another way to win Saturday’s Class 5A regional baseball game.
La Cueva hit one home run, a two-run shot in the pivotal sixth inning, but mostly the top-ranked Bears relied on Clovis’ generosity in the field and on the mound to beat the Wildcats 8-3 at LCHS.
“I’m glad this one’s over,” fifth-year Bears coach Stan McKeever said. “To be honest, the hype has put a little bit of pressure on our kids. We struggled today, but we got through it.”
Making their second straight postseason appearance after a 40-year absence, the Wildcats (17-10) stayed with La Cueva for 5 1/2 innings by holding the Bears’ high-powered offense in check.
But Billy Hogan hit a two-run homer to right, touching off a five-run sixth that kept the Bears (27-0) on track to become only the third New Mexico large-school team to finish a season undefeated. La Cueva advances to a state semifinal game on Friday at Farmington against Valley, which routed Las Cruces Mayfield 11-0 on Saturday.
Touted as perhaps one of the best teams in the state’s history, La Cueva now has 74 home runs for the season, including four players with at least 10. But the Bears managed only six singles and Hogan’s home run against the Cats.
Catcher Richard Urban hit a second-inning leadoff homer off La Cueva right-hander James Parr (7-0) to put the Wildcats in front 1-0. Jason Seefeld added a shot off the flagpole behind the 363-foot mark in straightaway center — his school-record eighth homer — to pull Clovis to 3-2 in the sixth.
However Seefeld, who took over for starter Darren Davis (5-4) and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth, struggled with control when he went back out. He walked catcher Zach Arnett on a 3-2 pitch leading off, then gave up Hogan’s wind-aided homer over the right field fence.
Seefeld walked another hitter, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch in the inning as the Bears did all their damage on just two hits.
“We played right with them until the sixth inning,” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “Seefeld didn’t have his stuff today, and they capitalized.”
Clovis scored an unearned run without benefit of a hit in the seventh. The Cats were held to just three hits for the game by Parr, who walked three and struck out six.
La Cueva, which failed to score in double figures in only five previous games, benefited from two Cats’ errors to score two unearned runs off Davis (5-4) in the second. The Bears were kept off the board by Davis in the third and fourth innings before they made it 3-1 in the fifth on two singles, a sacrifice and Ramon Romero’s bloop RBI single to left.
After a two-out walk loaded the bases, Seefeld was summoned and retired cleanup hitter Jordan Pacheco on a deep fly ball to center field.
Aside from the home runs, the Cats’ only other hit was a two-out double by Seefeld in the first. The Clovis infield supported Davis with double plays in each of the first three innings.
“The thing that killed us was the errors (in the second inning),” Shallenberger said. “Darren pitched well. He hit his spots and did a good job.
“We hit the ball well today, but just right at people. They caught two balls right at the wall.”