By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Next year is about to begin for the Clovis High baseball team.
The Wildcats, who did not make the postseason during the regular spring campaign for the first time in coach Shane Shallenberger’s four seasons, begin a 26-game summer schedule Tuesday with a 4 p.m. doubleheader against Hereford at Bell Park.
Assistant coach Shane Leatherwood will run the team while Shallenberger oversees the program, which participates in the West Texas Baseball League.
“I just think we need to fine-tune and get ready for next year,” Shallenberger said. “We need to try to find some pitching, and when you lose seniors you always have some holes to fill.”
Leatherwood, who normally coaches the CHS junior varsity, said he’s looking forward to the summer season. The team hosts a tournament next weekend, and will finish summer play on June 30.
“It’s a good opportunity for the kids, and it’s a great opportunity for me to coach the varsity kids,” Leatherwood said. “I’ve coached every one of these kids (on the JV level) except for (seniors-to-be) Matt (Ulibarri) and Sean (Cruce).”
Leatherwood, a CHS alum who has been on the baseball staff for three years, will work closely with Shallenberger.
“He oversees it, but he’s going to kind of let me have the reins,” Leatherwood said. “I’ve just got to make the lineup and call pitches and let the boys play.”
Clovis will also have a junior varsity team, under the direction of recent CHS graduates Drew Hatley and Robert Riggins.
Shallenberger, who led the Cats into the Class 5A playoffs each of his first three seasons at the school, said the players are determined to improve on their 9-17 mark this spring and try to get back into the postseason picture.
“The guys coming back are excited to get a new season started,” he said. “They kind of know what it takes now. They’ve been out at the field every day.”
Rules in the WTBL are more liberal than normal, including allowing more than nine batters to hit in a lineup.
“There’s not a lot of rules,” Leatherwood said. “It’s all about playing and learning in the summer league.
“It’s pretty laid back. All we ask from the kids is to play hard.”