Cats rally to earn split with Artesia

Artesia’s Garrett Mossbarger slides across home plate in front of Clovis’ catcher Daniel Casarez during the fifth inning of the first game of their double header Saturday at Bell Park. Mossbarger was safe on the play. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondant

Heading into district play in one week, the Clovis baseball squad was hoping for a little momentum. The Wildcats got it, although late in the day, in a doubleheader against Artesia on Saturday.

At Bell Park, Clovis (7-8) fell to the visiting Bulldogs 4-1 in the opener before rebounding to take a convincing 12-3 victory in the nightcap.

In the second game of the twinbill, the Wildcats saw a subpar offensive performance from the first contest carry over until the bottom of the second inning. The ‘Cats initially got untracked through a pair of walks, an infield hit and a sacrifice fly to shallow centerfield for a 1-0 lead.

From that point, Clovis unleashed an offensive attack that included 12 hits over the final four frames.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve got a lot of hits and scored a lot of runs like that,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said. “I hope that maybe that can get us some confidence and get us going.”

A key at-bat in the second game came when Wildcats third baseman Jared Kiser battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk, fouling off numerous pitches in the process. Kiser, who was hitless in the opening game of the doubleheader, went on to connect for a single and a double in the finale after his tenacious at-bat.

“Kiser battled and battled. I think that was an AB where you can see that we’re getting more comfortable as the season goes on,” Shallenberger said.

Artesia (8-8) took a temporary lead in the second game when two runs were plated, without the benefit of a hit, in the top of the third. But a two-run single by Clovis’ Jared Powers in the bottom of the inning gave the hosts a 3-2 advantage.

Clovis, after an RBI-single from Daniel Casarez in the fourth put the ‘Cats up 4-2, blew the second game open with a five-run fifth. That rally’s big hit was a three-run triple by Sean Cruce with the bases loaded as Clovis went ahead 8-2 with that three-bagger to right-centerfield.

In the meantime, Clovis starting pitcher Jonathan Ware allowed only one Artesia hit until the sixth. When the Bulldogs hit three singles in that frame for a run, Wildcats’ catcher Daniel Casarez came on in relief and finished the game at pitcher.

“This was a game that I needed, actually,” said Ware, a junior for the Cats. “(The victory) was a big boost for us. I think we’re going to start winning games now.”

“Jonathan did a good job keeping them off-balance and I also think that Cade (Wheeler) and Sean (Cruce) did a good job in the first game,” Shallenberger said. “We lost a 4-to-1 game, but gave up two unearned runs – it should have been a 2-to-1 ballgame. We just didn’t hit behind them.”

In the first contest, Artesia took a quick 2-0 lead when Kris Vierra, Steven Jackson and Ramiro Flores had consecutive hits in the opening inning. Clovis’ only strong inning, while batting, was in the third when one run came in thanks to a single from Parker Wood that drove in Cruce.

Vierra and Wheeler, the Bulldogs’ hurlers in the opener, held Clovis to only a pair of runs for the remainder of the game.

“Throughout the season, those four guys that we threw today have been really solid,” Artesia coach Clay Foster said. “But when you don’t spot up and throw your pitches, if you can’t get your offspeed stuff over, Shane’s teams are always good hitting teams and you can’t do that.”