Clovis shortstop Sean Cruce tries to beat the tag of Frenship High’s first baseman during the first game of their doubleheader Tuesday at Bell Park. Cruce was called out on the play. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Rick White
Matt Ulibarri is a dirt magnet when it comes to baseball.
Just check out his pants, which look like fifth-generation hand-me-downs with holes in the front and back and an overall reddish-brown sheen, belying the fact that he’s had them less than a month.
Needless to say, the Clovis junior enjoys getting down and dirty.
“I guess I just slide too much,” said Ulibarri, minutes after he scored the winning run in Tuesday’s 2-1 decision over Frenship High of Wolfforth, Texas, in a West Texas Baseball League doubleheader at Bell Park. “I like to get dirty. That way people know you played.”
Clovis coach Brian Cronk said Ulibarri has paid his dues.
“Matt did a lot of watching when he was a freshman and he really paid attention,” Cronk said. “He learned a lot from the kids on that team.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence this summer. I think hands down he’s one of the best outfielders in the state.”
Cronk said Ulibarri and fellow junior Sean Cruce, two of the three returning starters for the Wildcats’ state runner-up team, are the building blocks for next year’s team.
“Matt’s leading the team in hitting and Sean is right up there,” Cronk said. “They’ve both stepped up and taken a leadership role on this team.”
Ulibarri, who made several outstanding catches in center during the state tournament in Albuquerque, is also relishing his new role as leadoff hitter after batting ninth during the high school season.
“I like batting in the first inning,” said Ulibarri, who has stolen close to 30 bases this summer. “I don’t like waiting until the second or third inning to hit.”
Clovis also received another solid outing Tuesday from senior right-hander David Root, who went the distance, allowing seven hits and retiring the last eight batters he faced.
“When you’re around the plate you always have a chance to win,” Cronk said. “But that was his best outing of the season by far.”
Clovis had won eight-straight games before its recent woes.
“When we were winning we were getting the breaks and putting some hits together,” Cronk said. He said the opposite has been true during the losing skid.
Luke Gray added three hits for Clovis in the opener. Results of the second game were not available at press time.
Clovis has two weeks left in the season.