Margin of error slim for Wildcats

By Dave Wagner: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis High baseball team has put itself squarely behind the 8-ball in District 4-5A.

The Wildcats, who dropped all three games last weekend in a district-opening series at Carlsbad and looked ugly doing it, try to begin their climb back into postseason contention when they host Sandia in a three-game series at Bell Park, beginning with a 4 p.m. doubleheader today.

The series finale is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday. Sandia is playing its first district games.

“It’s a crucial weekend if we want to make the playoffs,” CHS baseball coach Shane Shallenberger acknowledged. “Our district is so even; nobody’s really a powerhouse this year.
“We’ve got to win the series this weekend, at least, if not get a sweep.”

The defending Class 5A state runnerup Wildcats (7-10) have played reasonably well much of this season with many new faces on the roster.

Last week, though, may have been the team’s low point. Clovis led early in all three games, but was charged with 21 errors in the series and kept the Cavemen off the scoreboard in only four of 15 innings in which they batted.

“All we had to do was keep the pressure on them and make the routine plays, and we probably would’ve come away with a couple of wins,” Shallenberger said. “But we just didn’t ever play solid baseball.”

Junior shortstop Sean Cruce said the Cats need to do more than just take the series if they want to get off the deck in district play.

“We need three (wins) this weekend, I think,” he said. “If we come to play, we can beat anybody in the district.”

The Cats saw the Matadors play in the Rio Rancho tournament earlier this spring, although they didn’t play them. Shallenberger said senior pitcher-first baseman James Platt swings a good bat for Sandia.

“They looked pretty good defensively, although they didn’t hit the ball that well when we saw them,” Cruce said.

Cruce and Shallenberger both expressed major disappointment with the team’s performance at Carlsbad.

“I thought we’d go into district a little upbeat,” Shallenberger said. “I don’t think we played at all last weekend.”

Still, Cruce added, the Cats have to look ahead.

“We really can’t focus on (last weekend),” he said. “It can’t get much worse than that, but we’ve got to put that behind us.

“We’ve had pretty good practices this week, and that’s helped us. As long as we come out focused, we’ll be fine.”