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

Clovis ready for heat of state tournament

 

Tony Bullocks

Seniors Connor Langrell and Colson Faircloth and junior Garrett Langrell, from left, meet at the mound before the start of an inning during an April 24 match-up against Sandia at Bell Park. Clovis faces Carlsbad on Thursday in the Class 6A quarterfinals at UNM's Santa Ana Star Field.

CLOVIS — The sweltering temperatures for Tuesday's full practice at Bell Park were of the you-ain't-seen-nothing-yet variety for the Clovis High baseball team.

It was in the 90s Tuesday, but about 220 miles to the west it's expected to push 100 by Thursday at 4 p.m.

That's when the fourth-seeded Wildcats play a Class 6A quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Carlsbad, beginning what they hope is a three-game climb toward a state championship on Saturday. More challenging yet, they'll play Thursday's game on the turf of the University of New Mexico's Santa Ana Star Field, which should make it even hotter.

No worries, the 'Cats say. They'll play in any weather to reach the goal they've long been setting for themselves.

"Yeah, it's a big week," Clovis coach Richard Cruce said at the start of Tuesday's practice. "I think we're all excited. The kids are excited, the coaches are excited. This is the second time in school history that we've gotten this far."

"I'm really excited. I think all of us are," said Clovis senior pitcher Connor Langrell, who will get the start Thursday. "It's coming up on a lot of our last games. It's a lot of lasts for all of us."

Knowing that, a roster with 12 seniors won't let anything deter it. For Langrell specifically, who grew up in Las Vegas (Nevada), triple-digit weather is not exactly culture shock. And all the Wildcats live in New Mexico with its indecisive weather.

"The weather's been adversity all year," Cruce said, "whether it be cold weather, wind, whatever."

Still, upper 90s is upper 90s.

"It's going to be the hottest weather we've seen all year," Cruce acknowledged. "It's going to be tough on turf, but both teams have to play in the elements. We'll have to stay hydrated."

"We've played at Hobbs (on the turf) when it was hot there and we did a pretty good job," Langrell said. "We've played through adversity — whether it was cold, windy. We're just really mentally tough."

The Wildcats (23-5) will, after all, have more to worry about from Carlsbad (22-7) than from the oppressive heat. The teams clashed at the Hobbs tournament on March 1, and Clovis escaped with a 2-1 eight-inning victory. Another close, well-pitched game would not be too surprising, which is where Langrell should be an asset. Aside from sporting a 7-1 record and a 1.10 ERA, he hasn't pitched since a 2-1 regular-season loss at La Cueva on April 28. Clovis earned the advantage of not using Langrell in the playoffs by sweeping Manzano 10-0 and 10-3 in last weekend's best-of-three first-round series at Bell Park. Langrell played in the field, but not on the mound.

"It was huge," Cruce said. "It took a lot of guts for us not to start a kid that's been one of our best for two years, but that's how much confidence we had in everybody else."

By Thursday, Langrell will have gone 12 days without pitching, a layoff that might be perceived by some as a drawback. Not Langrell, though.

"I always try to keep my head in it," he said. "I'm ready to throw on any given day. If Manzano had gone to Game 3, I was ready. I'm ready to throw on Thursday."

If Langrell and his teammates get the quarterfinal victory, they'll earn more than a 6A semifinal berth the next day. A win would be the Wildcats' 24th of the season, establishing a new school record.

That's all fine and well, but they want 26.

"It would be great for all of us," Langrell said. "That's what we've been talking about all year. When we lost to Centennial (in the state playoffs) last year, we thought, 'We never want that feeling again.' "

"We talked about it (Monday)," Cruce said. "If we just take care of us, like we have all year, it's been a pretty good formula for us. It got us 23 wins, doing what we do, believing in who we are."

 

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