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

Wildcats, Bears set for 2-6A showdown

Clovis can win district by sweeping or outscoring La Cueva Saturday

 

April 28, 2018

CLOVIS - The numbers say it all - eight and zero.

As in 8-0, the District 2-6A records of both the Clovis and La Cueva baseball teams. They'll each head into today's regular-season-ending doubleheader at La Cueva (1 p.m.) with those unblemished district marks. They'll head out of it knowing which of them is the regular-season district champion.

No pressure or anything.

Actually, both teams are eager to get out there and decide it today.

"Any time you get a chance to play and you play a quality team like Clovis, you're always excited to play," La Cueva coach Gerard Pineda said by telephone Friday.

Clovis has been working toward Saturday's game ever since sweeping district foe Sandia 2-1 and 9-0 on Tuesday at home.

"La Cueva's tradition goes a long way," Clovis coach Richard Cruce said before the start of Friday's practice at Bell Park. "They're going to be good, they do things right. They've got good 4-5 hitters in their lineup that are really quality. They're going to be tough."

If the Wildcats sweep today, they are district champions, a unique distinction for Clovis baseball. If the Bears win, they take the district crown. Simple enough.

But what if the teams split?

The first deciding tiebreaker is district records, so a split puts them both at 9-1. The next tiebreaker is head-to-head records, but those will be 1-1 if they split.

The third tiebreaker is run differential in the head-to-head games (with a 10-run cap per game), so being able to bang out runs today will be huge for both teams.

The fourth tiebreaker is run differential in all district games (also with a 10-run cap per game). Going into today, La Cueva holds a 47-35 advantage over Clovis in that category.

So, the Wildcats will be district champs if they sweep or outscore the Bears in a split.

Overall, La Cueva comes in at 20-2 (after an 0-2 start), Clovis at 21-3. They are both still vying for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming state 6A tournament, which will be held the week after next. On paper, though each team can be effective at both pitching and hitting, La Cueva seems to be more of a hitting team, Clovis more of a pitching team. The Wildcats, in fact, did not allow a run in district competition until Tuesday's opener against Sandia, and that lone run came on a fielder's choice. The 'Cats had gone 45 straight scoreless innings prior to that run coming home, and have gone another 11 1/3 scoreless since, blanking Sandia the rest of that game and zipping the Matadors 9-0 in the nightcap.

Offering a stark contrast was how La Cueva fared in its doubleheader at Sandia on Apr. 14. The Bears racked up a combined 34 runs, but allowed 23, sweeping the twin bill 19-13 and 15-10.

"Then the flip side happened last week against Eldorado," Pineda said. "We pitched really well, but didn't swing the bats really well. At least in terms of scoring runs."

La Cueva did hit enough to record 5-4 and 3-0 wins over Eldorado, enough to stay unbeaten in district play. It's evidence that the Bears can at times get those solid pitching performances.

While Pineda is confident in his own hurlers, he is certainly impressed with Clovis' pitching arsenal, which includes starters Sebastian Nunez, Connor Langrell and Colson Faircloth, plus Garrett Langrell out of the pen.

"It's quite an accomplishment to go eight games and give up one run in district play," Pineda said. "Whether it's Nunez, (Connor) Langrell or Faircloth, you know you've got a guy on the mound that competes really well."

Pineda has respect for everything Clovis does, not just the pitching.

"(Cam) Kuykendall does a good job of getting on base," Pineda said, "and the Langrell brothers and (catcher Jace) Piepkorn do a good job of moving them around and getting them in. They've got a lot of tough outs in the lineup. If we give up a base hit, hopefully nobody's on."

Clovis does seem to have that knack of grinding away at teams, prolonging at-bats, prolonging innings, wearing opponents down.

So what will it take for the Wildcats to do that today?

"It'll take us being who we are," Cruce said, "and doing the little things right, and getting some clutch hits in big situations. If we do that, we have the opportunity to win the ballgames."

"I think if we just play how we are - we're a really good team - and we just stick together and do what we're supposed to, we're going to do well," Clovis outfielder Kayden Shober said.

As for home field today, it's advantage La Cueva this year. The same players will battle the same opposing players, regardless of whose field they're on, but taking that 3 1/2-hour journey to Albuquerque can be a drag, especially when it's soon followed by consecutive baseball games and when, oh by the way, those games have the District 2-6A regular-season title riding on them.

Just part of the deal with New Mexico athletics. Nothing to do but chill out on the bus, try to stay loose.

"We sleep some," Faircloth said. "A lot of us sleep until we get to Santa Rosa, then we get up, get around, talk a little bit, watch a movie."

"We all do our own thing," Shober said. "We all just do our own thing, like listen to music."

The Wildcats hope to be nice and relaxed by the time their bus gets to Albuquerque today for the biggest two games of their season up to this point. They'll need to be sharp to even beat La Cueva once, let alone both ends of a doubleheader.

Included in the 90s music blaring at Friday afternoon's practice was Alanis Morissette singing "Everything's gonna be fine, fine, fine." The 'Cats can only hope that lyric is a good omen.

"I thing we're all ready," Shober said. "We've been preparing for this for a while."

"It'd be nice (to win)," Faircloth said, "but it's not the goal that we're playing for. We want to win it, but we want to win the big blue (state championship) trophy at the end of the year."

 

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