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

'Cats maul Monarchs

Baseball team sweeps doubleheader

 

Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Cam Kuykendall singles against Manzano in the top of the second inning of Saturday's District 2-6A doubleheader opener at Bell Park. It was one of just four hits in the Wildcats' 2-0 win. Clovis took the second game 18-0 and improved to 17-3 on the season.

CLOVIS — Blue skies, very little wind, but less-than-ideal temperatures.

Two out of three wasn't bad for Clovis' baseball team as far as conditions for Saturday's doubleheader against Manzano were concerned. Especially since the Wildcats' percentages were better competitively speaking, as they went 2-for-2 by sweeping the Monarchs 2-0 in seven innings and 18-0 in five at Bell Park, improving to 17-3 overall and 4-0 against District 2-6A opponents.

Sebastian Nunez fired a one-hit shutout in the opener, with Colson Faircloth rolling a two-hit goose-egg in the second game, stretching Clovis' opponents-scoreless streak to 29 innings.

"I'm very happy with the way the kids played today," Clovis coach Richard Cruce said. "We had two great outings on the mound, had good approaches at the plate. ... They found a way in the first one to win a close ballgame, and that shows a lot of character. And then in the second one, it also shows character after seeing a guy who's hard on the mound early, that you can come back and re-focus against somebody who's going to throw a little softer."

Nunez had a no-hitter going through 5 1/3 innings of the opener before Manzano's Dakota Cummings dropped a single into shallow right field. Faircloth was greeted by A.J. Urquieta's leadoff single to start the second game, then didn't allow another hit until Isaac Romero's two-out single to right field in the top of the fifth that temporarily kept Manzano afloat.

Those twin bill shutouts displayed the depth of Clovis' rotation that also includes Connor Langrell, who is 5-0 on the mound this season.

"We've got three that we can roll out at any time to start ballgames," Cruce said. "It makes you as a coach feel a lot better when you can just say, 'Hey, go get outs right here,' and have some confidence in those guys."

In the first game, Nunez only allowed hit batsmen in the top of the first and fifth innings, and two walks in the top of the second, prior to finally surrendering his first hit in the sixth.

There wasn't much Clovis run support to be had against Manzano starter Mitchell Parker, who struck out 12 and walked three in a complete-game effort. Parker has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend and play next year for the University of Tennessee out of the SEC.

The Wildcats small-balled their way to the game's only two runs in the bottom of the second, which Nunez led off by getting hit with a Parker pitch. He grabbed second base on Kayden Shober's sacrifice bunt and came in to score when Anthony Gonzales hit a choppy single through the middle, giving Clovis a 1-0 lead.

With Joe Gallegos up, Gonzales stole second. And after Gonzales went to third on a passed ball, he scored on a Gallegos ground out, putting the Wildcats ahead 2-0.

Pitching and defense carried it from there.

"My change-up and my fastball were working really well for me," Nunez said. "And of course, I have a great defense. So, without them, I wouldn't have been as successful as I was."

After five hitless innings, Nunez induced a fly out from Urquieta to start off the top of the sixth. Cummings, though, followed with his single.

The next batter, Kevin Gutierrez, threatened to quickly tie the game, sending three straight well-hit balls to deep left field but watching all three sail foul. Nunez, however, didn't panic. "I've just got to relax," he said, "and go up there and do my thing."

His 'thing' in this case was managing to strike Gutierrez out, followed by a strikeout of Ruger Bravo to end Manzano's half of the inning.

Nunez fanned the side in the top of the seventh, giving him five consecutive strikeouts to end the game and 12 in the contest overall.

In the second game, Clovis plated 10 runs in the first inning, eight more in the second. It was partly a matter of "Next Stop Plunk City, Please Display All Tickets", as five Wildcats had HBP (hit by pitch) next to their names during those first two innings.

Cam Kuykendall led off the bottom of the first with a single, and he came all the way around to score when Connor Langrell reached on a throwing error past first base. Langrell made it to third base on the play, and he scored when Jace Piepkorn sent a 1-1 pitch into right-center for an RBI-single that made it 2-0.

With Garrett Langrell batting, Piepkorn took second base on a passed ball, and after Langrell drew a walk, Faircloth singled to right, scoring Piepkorn with Clovis' third run. Nunez then bunted to load the bases, marking the first of five different times the bases were juiced during the inning.

Shober fisted a single to shallow right-center, scoring Garrett Langrell and keeping the bases jammed. Gonzales was hit by a pitch to score pinch runner Cadyn Campbell, and Gallegos walked to force Nunez home and make it a 6-0 game.

When Kuykendall was plunked, Shober scored the Wildcats' seventh run of the game, and with Connor Langrell up, Gonzales scored on a passed ball, stretching Clovis' lead to 8-0. Connor Langrell soon whacked a 1-0 pitch for a two-run double, the game's first extra-base hit, to put Clovis ahead 10-0 and push the game out of reach early.

Clovis' second inning offensively included Gonzales scoring when Connor Langrell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Piepkorn smacking a two-run double, Connor Langrell scoring when Faircloth was plunked with the bases again loaded, Nunez cracking a two-run RBI-single, Campbell scoring on a wild pitch and Shober walloping an RBI-triple.

While the Wildcats were notching their 10-spot in the first inning and following with that eight-spot in the second, Faircloth was pitching a gem of his own en route to improving to 6-0 this spring.

"I just tried to move my speeds around and move my pitches around," he said. "I just kinda left it up to my defense to back me up."

Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Sebastian Nunez tossed a one-hitter in the Wildcats' 2-0 opening-game win.

In the top of the third inning, Clovis displayed some of that defense, pulling off one of baseball's rarest and coolest feats — a triple play. Manzano was in business after Romero led off by reaching on an error, and Fox drew a walk. But then, Urquieta hit a grounder that was fielded at second by Nunez, who flipped to Gonzales. Gonzales then fired to Garrett Langrell at first base, but the 'Cats weren't done yet. Langrell saw Romero trying to score and threw to Piepkorn, who tagged Romero to wrap up the inning 4-6-3-2.

"You don't see many of those in any type of baseball game," Cruce said. "That was a good thing. We talk about being focused at all times, and got a double-play ball, and Garrett didn't fall asleep at first base, he did a good job."

Despite being off all week after last playing at Eldorado a week earlier, the Wildcats showed no signs of rust. That bodes well for them, because they now have another week off before visiting Santa Fe (7-8, 0-4) for a doubleheader next Saturday.

"We've got another challenge up there," Faircloth said. "Hopefully, we go up there and do what we've been doing."

 

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