By Dave Wagner
You could have almost called it the Clovis Invitational.
Clovis-based teams came home with five championships in six divisions last weekend in the New Mexico USSSA youth slow-pitch state softball tournament in Alamogordo.
In addition, the area took three second-place finishes, a third and a fourth.
Overall, 17 of the 48 teams in the event were from the Clovis-Portales area.
Area teams went 1-2-3 in the 10-team, double-elimination 10-and-under division. Clovis-Portales Speed took first place with a 4-1 record, beating rival Clovis Xplosions in two of three games at state, while the Clovis Panthers were third.
Speed took the winners bracket final from Xplosions 11-2, then lost 5-4 in the first championship game before rolling to a 30-6 win in the “if’ game.
Speed coach Richard Forkum said his squad hadn’t beaten Xplosions in two years.
“I told the girls that when it counted we’d do it,” he said. “We’d been practicing every day for two weeks getting ready for this.”
Speed was led by tournament MVP Deanna Garcia, offensive MVP Jacy Terry and three all-tournament selections — Leanne Blaeser, Dakota Foreman and Michaela Hulder.
The Clovis Hot Rods raced through the four-team 8-and-under division with a 5-0 record. They swept round-robin competition on Saturday, then won in the semifinals on Sunday before beating the Clovis Little Stars 20-7 in the championship game.
Again, the finalists were familiar foes. The Little Stars had won three of four previous meetings this season, with all except one decided by two runs or less.
“Us and the Little Stars have been kind of going back and forth all season long,” said Hot Rods coach Robert LeClear, whose entire team moves up to 10U next year. “They beat us in the (Custom Classic) and in the league, but we finally got them at state.”
First baseman Allison Meyers was the tournament’s defensive MVP.
Clovis Spitfire went 5-0 to win the 11-team 12-and-under division. In the finals, Spitfire built a 14-1 lead over the Alamogordo Lucky Toons before holding on to win 14-12.
“I told the girls we should do pretty good in this,” coach Ronnie Anaya said. “We’d played hard all year.”
The win came at a price for Anaya, though — he told his players that if they went through the double-elimination bracket unbeaten, he would get his head shaved.
That’s scheduled for this weekend.
He said an easy first-round win got his squad going in the right direction. “They just kept pushing on; we did it as a team,” Anaya said.
Other area teams participating in the 12-and-under group were Clovis Power II and the Portales Mystics.
The Clovis Sparks, who had won state titles at 12U in 2001 and 14U last season, made it three in a row by sweeping to the 14-and-under crown at 4-0. They run-ruled the Hobbs Lucky Stars in the finals for the second year in a row.
“We’ve had a real good year,” said coach Steve Gulley, whose team played up in age level in some tournaments this year in preparing for state. “The last three years have been real good for us. The girls are just awesome — they’re good sports, win or lose.”
The Sparks posted a top-eight finish in national competition last year at Lubbock, but won’t travel to this year’s nationals at Moore, Okla., because several players have other commitments. Still, Gulley said he can still enjoy the successful run over the past few seasons.
“The reason they’re so good is they’ve played together for so long,” he said. “Most of these girls have been together for four years, and we’ve got a few who’ve been with the team for five or six years.”
The Clovis Lookouts, Portales P-ville Pride and Portales Lady Krews also participated in this age group.
The Clovis Jr. Vipers went 5-1 to win the seven-team 16-and-unders. After losing to Hobbs Heat in the winners bracket final, the Jr. Vipers edged the Heat 12-11 in the first championship game before nailing down the title with a 22-9 rout.
“We played Hobbs in the Custom Classic and went 0-2,” coach Ted Soto said. “We knew Hobbs would give us a good battle, but once we beat them the first time our confidence level really picked up.”
The Junior Vipers will go on to Moore next week for their fourth consecutive trip to nationals. They were 14th two years ago at 14U before moving up to the 16s last year and finishing ninth.
“I think we feel pretty good going in,” Soto said.
The Portales Lady Cruisers also participated in 16U.
In the four-team 19-and-under bracket, the Clovis Illusions went 3-2 to finish second while the Portales Krushers placed third.