The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Veteran Clovis baseball team has high hopes

 

February 21, 2018

Tony Bullocks

Clovis senior Sebastian Nunez takes batting practice Tuesday afternoon at Bell Park.

CLOVIS — When Clovis High's baseball team takes to the Bell Park field on Thursday to play a doubleheader against Hobbs, it will look very much like the team that lost to Centennial in last season's state playoffs.

The 2018 squad is loaded with seniors, 12, in fact, out of the 15 roster spots.

A team that deep in experience is usually amped for a successful season, confident that season can end with a championship. And these Wildcats are no exception.

"We don't like to tell anybody, but expectations are pretty high," said Richard Cruce, beginning his fourth season as Clovis head coach, his 17th in coaching. "We expect them to do what's right, compete every outing."

Senior outfielder/pitcher Cam Kuykendall downplayed any talk of big expectations or the team's potential.

"I don't really care about the potential," he said. "We're not about potential or what people think of us. I'm just trying to play baseball and trying to do the best we can. I don't really care about what people think, what they think we can or can't do. I'm just trying to play baseball."

Still, Clovis' chances of having a memorable year are enhanced by that varsity experience. Players are easy to coach, and sometimes don't even need too much coaching.

"Yeah, having 12 seniors, they can coach themselves," Cruce said. "They know exactly what we want to do."

"We take a lot of pride," Kuykendall said. "Not many programs can do that; they can't have their players coach the team like we can. We have 12 seniors, so it's nice to have a team that can lead each other, not have to rely on coaches."

"It's a little scary for the following years on the team," infielder-pitcher Sebastian Nunez said, referring to the coming turnover due to graduation. "But I feel like this year's going to be a blast."

Aside from their senior leadership, the Wildcats are also versatile. Cruce says he might have a kind-of/sort-of starting lineup in his head, but it could be ever-changing because of the versatility. He likes having those options, as any coach would.

"I do," he said. "The only one I worry about is when I have to use my shortstop to pitch, because it takes part of my middle infield away. But high school baseball, sometimes you've got to do it."

Among the batteries Cruce might employ are pitcher Connor Langrell and catcher Jace Piepkorn, both of whom will head to Division II Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, next season.

Cruce listed Langrell as a pitcher-infielder, just like Nunez, and also categorized E.J. Gonzales that way.

He said Kuykendall, Anthony Montoya, Joe Gallegos and Kayden Shober are outfielder-pitchers. Colson Faircloth is expected to be a first baseman-pitcher. Garrett Langrell and Tomas Gallegos are classified by Cruce as utility players; they'll play everywhere, he says.

The roster is rounded out by Piepkorn, infielders Anthony Gonzales and Cadyn Campbell, designated hitter Ricky Ulses and pitcher Brendan Sambrano.

Being one of the infielder-pitchers puts Nunez among the many 'slash'players - in other words a player whose positions have a slash in between. Wherever he's positioned, Nunez will be counted upon heavily.

"I feel really confident," he said. "We're doing better and better in practices and I feel like we're all prepared for Thursday."

It does, after all, start with that day, with Hobbs and those first two games of the season. As the Wildcats forge into 2018, they agree that hitting is what needs to improve the most, and they've been working on that.

"We hit every day," Cruce said. "I'm a big proponent — especially in high school baseball — that you've got to hit and play defense every day. You can't take a day off."

"We work a lot on hitting live," Nunez said, "and we take a lot of hacks in the cages, going 300 percent at all times."

Cruce considers pitching a strength, and says defense certainly can be.

"I think defensively we've got a chance to be as good as we want to be," he said.

Cruce and his team could indeed be at the threshold of a big season, but the playoffs are more than two months away. The Wildcats' journey begins with Thursday's first two steps, and they'll go from there.

"If we all connect and we all play like we can," Nunez said, "we can come out on top."

2018 schedule

February - 22, Hobbs (2), 4:30 p.m.

March - 1, vs. Carlsbad, 2 p.m. (at Hobbs, round-robin); 2, vs. Artesia, 3 p.m. (at Hobbs, round-robin); 3, at Hobbs, 1 p.m. (round-robin); 8, at Cleveland, 4:30 p.m.; 9, vs. Aztec (at Cleveland), 12:30 p.m.; 10, vs. Piedra Vista (at Cleveland), 12 p.m.; 13, at Portales, 5 p.m.; 15, TBA; 16, TBA; 17, TBA; 22, vs. Albuquerque Academy (Rio Rancho Tournament), 4 p.m.; 23-24, Sal Puentes Invitational, TBA; 27, Lovington, 5 p.m.; 31, at Eldorado (2), 1 p.m.

April - 7, Manzano (2), 1 p.m.; 14, at Santa Fe (2), 1 p.m.; 20, Sandia (2), 4 p.m.; 28, at La Cueva (2), 1 p.m.

No. Name Pos. Yr.

1 Sebastian Nunez Inf.-P Sr.

2 Jace Piepkorn C Sr.

3 Cam Kuykendall OF-P Sr.

4 Anthony Montoya OF-P Jr.

5 Garrett Langrell Utility Jr.

Tony Bullocks

Clovis senior Tomas Gallegos fields a grounder at Tuesday's practice session.

6 Joe Gallegos OF-P Sr.

7 Anthony Gonzales Inf. Jr.

10 Connor Langrell P-Inf. Sr.

11 Tomas Gallegos Utility Sr.

12 EJ Gonzales Inf.-P Sr.

13 Cadyn Campbell Inf. Sr.

14 Colson Faircloth 1B-P Sr.

15 Ricky Ulses DH Sr.

19 Kayden Shober OF-P Sr.

21 Brendan Sambrano P Sr.

 

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