Wildcats ride strong start

Clovis second baseman Cade Wheeler tries to complete the double play as Amarillo Tascosa’s Blake McNabb tries to break up the play Tuesday at Bell Park. Wheeler’s throw to first base was in time. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Coming off a doubleheader loss on Saturday at Artesia, the Clovis High baseball team was anxious to get back on track.

The Wildcats jumped on Amarillo Tascosa for five first-inning runs and went on to a 10-6 win Tuesday at Bell Park

The win squared the Wildcats’ record at 6-6.

Shortstop Sean Cruce and catcher Daniel Casarez both went 3-for-4 and the Cats had more than enough runs to withstand a four-run seventh from Tascosa.

“It was definitely a win we needed,” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “The kids came to the field upbeat today, and they played hard.”

Cruce, replacing the graduated Jason Seefeld this season as the Cats’ shortstop and late-inning closer, struggled in his one inning on the mound.

Cruce gave up a run-scoring double to Cory Green, a two-run triple to Hunter Callahan and an RBI triple to Zach Lundberg in the seventh before closing the door. He said he’s adjusting to his relief role.

“It’s going all right,” said Cruce, a junior. “I’ve got to throw more strikes, basically.”

He said as the team’s No. 3 hitter, he’s seeing different pitches than he did batting eighth or ninth as a freshman or even hitting second last season.

“You see a lot more off-speed pitches in the three-hole,” he said. “But I’d rather hit (third) because you have more opportunities to drive in runs.”

Cruce, Casarez and Nathan Dodge hit RBI singles in the first off Tascosa’s Jake Parsons, who settled down to blank CHS over the next three innings and keep Tascosa in the game.

“He did a good job for us,” said Rebels coach Jason Patrick, whose team fell to 7-6. “We were just trying to keep the game close. We had a good comeback at the end, but you can’t spot a team five runs from the get-go and expect to win.

“We’ve got to eliminate the big inning. You have to have people step up and make some plays.”

Bases-loaded walks to Cade Wheeler and Matt Ulibarri pushed Clovis’ lead to 7-2 in the fifth. The Cats batted around in a three-run sixth, with Dodge and pinch-hitter Simon Salguero belting RBI singles.

The defending Class 5A runnerup Cats close out pre-district play with a 1 p.m. home twin bill against Alamogordo on Saturday. They travel to Carlsbad April 1-2 to start district play.

“We should have a few more wins, but when you’ve got a young team that’s part of the experience,” Shallenberger said. “Overall, I think we were consistent today (hitting the ball). We only had (five) strikeouts, so we put the ball in play.”