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

State champs again

Repeat title for Clovis American 13-14 Junior League team.

 

Eric Murray

Clovis American's 13-14 Junior League players display their championship banner on Saturday afternoon at the Lady Wildcats Complex. It is a repeat title for Clovis American, which moves on to the regionals in Albuquerque on Friday.

CLOVIS — The players on last year's Clovis American 13-14 Junior League softball team know well what it means to repeat as New Mexico state champions because they had hands directly in both.

The first-year players know what it felt like on Saturday, as they helped bring home the second of back-to-back titles.

Together, it was a talented, confident, well-coached group that barreled through this year's state tournament, capping it with Saturday's 16-1 victory over Copper, which crowned Clovis American's 13-14 team for the second consecutive year.

A gratifying win, for sure.

"Yes, it is. Very," said Jose Lopez, in his first year coaching Clovis American. "They work hard together in practice and everybody gets along. They demand more from each other all the time."

Shortstop Skylar Schuette and third baseman Divina Lopez, both 15, were among the repeat champions.

"I love it," Schuette said. "We put the pressure on every other team that we played. ... We had the enthusiasm and the work ethic to win."

"It feels good to play with younger players, so you can teach them," Divina Lopez said. "Me, I love to teach the girls what to do. And they did it."

13-year-old pitcher Marisa Lopez is one of those 'younger players.' She had one succinct word to describe what Saturday's victory meant.

"Everything," she said.

With their state championship secure, the Clovis American players move on to Albuquerque Friday to battle teams from other states in the regional tournament.

"It's really exciting," Marisa Lopez said, "because now we get to go represent the state."

Clovis American did some representing in Saturday afternoon's title game. Saturday's contest was actually a microcosm of the team's play throughout the tournament, during which it outscored its opposition 53-5. Good at-bats — either being patient and savvy at the plate or swinging away at the first pitch — helped Clovis American string together big innings that wore its opponents down.

In Saturday's championship game, Clovis American — designated as the visiting team — was retired 1-2-3 by Copper pitcher Zynasia Rodriguez in the top of the first inning, but as has been the case for most of the tournament, got rolling just a bit later.

In the top of the second, Divina Lopez worked a leadoff walk, and an out later went to second when Espy Tafoya walked as well. Schuette then smacked a first-pitch bouncing single to shallow left, shallow enough in fact that the other runners had to stop at second and third. The bases, though, were jammed.

Alyssa Cruz was up next and lofted a plunker into left-center that went for a double. Two runs scored, then another on a throwing error, making it 3-0. Cruz took third on the error.

After Jenice Hudson walked, Mikayla Romero sliced a single a few feet left of first base, driving Cruz home with Clovis American's fourth run. The runners soon advanced to second and third on a passed ball, which was followed by a Marisa Lopez double that dropped just left of the foul line in shallow right, sending in both base runners. Divina Lopez added an RBI single to make it 7-0 before the second inning was done.

In the top of the third inning, a two-run Marisa Lopez single stretched the lead to 9-0. Copper's lone run crossed on an error in the bottom of the third.

Clovis American plated seven runs in the top of the sixth: Divina Lopez scored on an error after tripling; Abigail Ortiz belted a two-run triple; Ortiz scored on an error; Shalanda Lefever scored on a Marina Sena single; and Divina Lopez belted a two-run single, giving Clovis American a 16-1 advantage.

Marisa Lopez, also the Clovis American pitcher, finished off the 10-run-rule victory in the top of the sixth, and wound up scattering four hits in the title game.

Clovis American was a state champion again. Soon, it'll be off to Albuquerque.

"I'm very excited," Schuette said. "Next week is going to be amazing."

Semifinal set stage

Clovis American reached the afternoon championship game by winning Saturday morning's semifinal 12-2 in five innings against the same Copper team, which climbed its way to the title game through the loser's bracket.

Clovis American — then too designated as the visiting team — threatened in the top of the first inning, loading the bases with one out. But Rodriguez notched a strikeout, and Copper left fielder Destiny Abalos came up with a web gem, likely saving two runs. Clovis American's Espy Tafoya had lofted one that looked as though it would drop in left, but Abalos lunged to make a diving catch and ended the half-inning.

Clovis American, though, would not be denied in the top of the second.

With the game still scoreless after Clovis American starting pitcher Marisa Lopez went 1-2-3 through the top of Copper's order in the bottom of the first, the purple and white then came back up and put together one of those offensive flurries that have become routine for the team throughout this state tournament.

Schuette led off the second by reaching on an error, and a strikeout later, Schuette stole second base while Hudson was batting. Hudson walked, and so did the next batter — Romero — to load 'em up.

Eric Murray

Clovis shortstop Skylar Schuette tags out Copper's Zynasia Rodrigez, who unsuccessfully tried to steal second base, during Saturday afternoon's championship game. Clovis went on to win the game, 16-6, to take the state crown.

With Marisa Lopez batting, a ball in the dirt allowed Schuette to score the game's first run, and Lopez's groundout sent Hudson home to make it 2-0. Sena singled Romero home, giving Clovis American a 3-0 edge, and Divina Lopez singled to put runners on first and second.

Up stepped Abby Morris, who delivered a first-pitch triple to deep left-center, scoring both baserunners and making it a 5-0 game.

"It was just up the middle and I watched it come through," Morris said of the offering from Rodriguez.

Clovis American mostly cruised from then on. In the third inning, Schuette scored on a throwing error and Chastity Hardy on a Marisa Lopez single, increasing the lead to 7-0.

Copper scored two in the bottom of the third — on an errant pickoff attempt and a bases-loaded walk — but Clovis American scored five in the top of the fourth. Schuette and Marisa Lopez each belted two-run singles, sandwiched around a bases-loaded walk by Romero.

 

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