Cavemen edge Cats in rubber match

Clovis sophomore second baseman Sean Cruce applies the tag for an out on Carlsbad’s Chris Ortega during Saturday’s game at Bell Park. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

Brian Flores and the Carlsbad Cavemen had just enough left to escape with a key District 4-5A series win.

After throwing a three-hit shutout against Clovis High on Friday night, Flores worked 2 2/3 innings in relief Saturday, stranding the winning runs on base in the home half of the seventh as Carlsbad took the rubber match of the three-game set 3-2 at Bell Park.

“It’s a big win,” said Carlsbad assistant coach Kenny Groves, running the team with head coach Tom Forni forced to sit out after being ejected from Friday’s second game. “Clovis’ program has really improved. They’re a good ballclub, and we may see them again (in postseason).”

Clovis (12-3, 1-2 district) has finished second to Carlsbad the last two seasons.

Chris Ortega’s RBI single put the Cavemen (14-1, 2-1 district) ahead 2-1 in the sixth after Flores reached second when his wind-blown fly ball landed just in front of right fielder John Props near the foul line.

“That run shouldn’t have happened,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said. “We’ve got to catch that ball.”

Carlsbad’s top four hitters were 1-for-12 against Clovis starter Richard Urban until manufacturing what proved to be the deciding run in the seventh. A.J. Rodriguez led off with a single and eventually scored on Steven Miehls’ sacrifice fly.

“I told the kids when we came in (for the seventh), ‘A one-run lead isn’t enough. We’ve got to get someone on (base) and find a way to score him,’” Groves said.

The Wildcats countered with three singles for a run against Flores in the bottom half, but the senior left-hander got Mark Young on a fly ball to center with two on and two out.

Urban gave up 10 hits — seven coming in the final three innings. He walked none and struck out three.

“Richard threw a good ballgame,” Shallenberger said. “He hit his spots and kept us in the game. We just didn’t have anybody step up and drive in runs when we needed them.

“It was a good game. Flores is a good pitcher. He knows what he’s doing on the mound, and he’s tough.”

The Cats scored the game’s first run in the fourth against Rodriguez, Carlsbad’s starter, on a two-out RBI single by designated hitter Luke Gray. The Cavemen tied it in the fifth on a single by Marcel Dominguez, a sacrifice and a two-out double by Aaron Pate.

Clovis loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning on a walk, a single and a hit batsman, but Flores relieved Rodriguez and got Ryan Denton on strikes and Young on a pop-up to first.

“A.J. pitched well for us,” Groves said. “Brian wanted the ball, and he usually bounces back well. He’s our ace, and we’re going to live and die with him.”

Carlsbad outhit the Cats 10-8. Flores, Ortega and Dominguez all had two hits for the Cavemen, while Gray went 2-for-3 for Clovis.

Carlsbad 3, Clovis 2
Carlsbad 000 011 1 — 3 10 3
Clovis 000 100 1 — 2 8 2
A.J. Rodriguez, Brian Flores (5) and Nathan Meek; Richard Urban and Mark Replogle. W — Flores. L — Urban. LOB — Carlsbad 9, Clovis 10. 2B — Carlsbad: Aaron Pate, Flores. T — 1:49. Records — Carlsbad 14-1 (2-1), Clovis 12-3 (1-2). JV score — Clovis 3, Carlsbad 2.