Clovis shortstop Cade Wheeler rounds third base on his way to score during the Cats’ five-run fourth inning. (CNJ staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondant
After an error-filled, lopsided loss to the Carlsbad in the opener of Friday’s District 4-5A doubleheader, Clovis surely was heading the wrong direction against its district rivals.
The Wildcats had already dropped a pair of close games earlier in the season to Carlsbad.
But the Wildcats got a major shot in the arm thanks to the right arm of one Sean Cruce, and managed to salvage a split at Bell Park. The Cavemen won the opener 13-3 before Cruce shut down the Carlsbad bats and the ‘Cats got an 8-0 victory in the nightcap.
Clovis (10-13, 1-5 in 4-5A) can still play its way into second place in district provided, among other things, it can sweep Hobbs on Tuesday in a road twin bill.
“We wanted to come out and sweep, but this last one was big for us,” said Cruce after handing Carlsbad only its second loss of the season. “If we can get a couple more wins on the road in Hobbs, that’s big.”
“It seemed like everybody participated in one way or another — getting hit by a pitch or walking or getting a big hit. I don’t think anybody stood out this (second) game, other than Sean on the mound,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said. “Sean did one great job. That’s the best game he’s ever pitched, I think.”
Cruce said that getting ahead in the pitch count was the key ingredient in keeping the Carlsbad hitters at bay.
The Clovis hitters, meanwhile, rallied for five runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth. In the fourth, three Wildcats — Chase Denton, Matt Ulibarri and Cruce — connected for RBI singles while Daniel Casarez also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center.
In the sixth, Cruce started Clovis on its late insurance-runs rally with a single. Denton added a long opposite-field drive to right-center and Devin Sweet and RBI-single.
“We made baserunning mistakes and we didn’t execute some simple things, some bunts and stuff, and you’re not gonna win when that happens,” Carlsbad coach Tom Forni said. “You have to give them full credit — they knocked the cover off the ball. But the second game, we shot ourselves in the foot.”
The ‘Cats could well have said the same thing about the opener.
Carlsbad (21-2, 5-1) jumped up 2-0 in the first frame of the first game on an RBI-single by Todd Weldon and a sac fly to right from Torrey Rodriguez.
The Cavemen got breathing room in the second and third innings when they scored four and six runs respectively.
The second inning Carlsbad rally got kick-started after Caveman junior Andrew Hyden apparently struck out. But the ball skipped back to the backstop and the visitors ended up scoring four — all unearned — thanks to run-producing hits from Aaron Pate, Weldon and Stephen Miehls.
In the top of the third, Clovis quickly got two outs before Hyden started another rally. This time, Hyden tripled and, by the time it was over, Carlsbad held a commanding 12-0 lead.
“The first game, we gave up quite a few unearned runs — we didn’t play well defensively,” Shallenberger said. “We actually hit better the first game than the second, but we left bases loaded two or three times.”