Clovis starter Cade Wheeler pitched into the seventh inning before needing relief help to close out a 13-8 win over Hobbs in Tuesday’s second game of a Summer League doubleheader at Bell Park. (Staff photo: Rick White)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Clovis vs. Hobbs. Though both high school’s baseball teams in a Tuesday doubleheader were mostly concentrating on self-improvement, there was no getting around that the long-standing rivalry still means something — even in the summer.
In the first game of the twinbill, Clovis broke a 5-5 tie in the sixth when a three-run double by Jared Powers gave the host Wildcats an 8-5 win. In the nightcap, Clovis struck for 12 runs in the first three innings and held on for a 13-8 win.
Clovis (18-5) finished the season with a 13-game win streak.
“It always matters, it always adds to the intensity,” said Clovis’ Sean Cruce, who pitched a complete game in the opener.
The coaches had a bit of a different perspective.
“Summertime, it’s a little bit more relaxed. Itís not as intense,” Hobbs coach Tim Phillips said. “As a matter of fact, we were out playing golf this morning with Shane (Shallenberger, Clovis High baseball coach). “It’s just time to relax and enjoy the game. Let the kids go out there and have a little bit of fun and hopefully they’ll learn some things.”
Shallenberger said he was hoping to shore up a pitching staff that was sometimes battered during the official high school season.
Cruce’s performance in the first game was encouraging to the Clovis coach.
Although Cruce saw a 5-1 lead disappear when Hobbs scored four runs in the fifth, the Clovis pitcher fought through an afternoon when he didn’t feel he was throwing his best.
“I just had to go out and get ahead of hitters and, after that, you could just work off speed and come back with some different things to get ahead,” Cruce said. “I just had one of those days where it wasn’t there, so I just had to go out there and battle.”
“Sean didn’t have his stuff today, but he competed and that’s a positive thing,” Shallenberger said. “Our district’s changing and we’re going to doubleheaders on Tuesday and doubleheaders on Saturday. What I’m really looking for is three quality pitchers, because now we don’t need five, really, in a three-game series.”
Powers played a big role not only at bat late in the first game, but early with his glove. After Cruce gave up solid singles to Hobbs’ first two batters to start the game, Powers raced over toward center from his left field position to make a nice grab to record the first out.
“That was a great catch. If he doesn’t make that catch, two runs score on that ball and they go ahead in the first inning,” Cruce said. “Then we’d have to play catch-up from then on.”
Later, Powers smacked a pitch from Hobbs’ Kyle Cranfill, with the bases loaded in the sixth, into right-centerfield for the game one winner.
“That’s another positive sign,” said Shallenberger of Powers’ hit. “These kids go out and do what they ask them to do. Sometimes they don’t always get it done, but they’re not going to get it done by not trying.”
In the nightcap, Cruce and Jarod Kiser collected three hits each.
Cade Wheeler started and pitched into the seventh inning for the Wildcats.