By Rick White
The trip spanned eight days and nearly 2,000 miles. Losing made it seem even longer.
Part adventure and part misadventure, the Clovis Wildcats suffered five of the nine losses this season during a March road trip that included a three-day tournament in Albuquerque and a four-game swing through Arizona.
Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said the success of the trip can’t be measured in wins and losses, because along the way the Wildcats (17-9) learned some lessons that paid off in a second-straight Class 5A regional playoff appearance.
Shallenberger called the early season road trip a bonding experience — a chance for the players to get to know their teammates like never before.
“As far as the game of baseball, they learned how to win games even while they’re not playing well,” said Shallenberger, who remembers making similar road trips while playing college baseball. “It helped us a lot in district. We figured out how to get it done and win baseball games.”
Senior second baseman Matt Cordova said he and his 13 teammates learned they weren’t as good as they thought they were after starting the season 6-1. He also said spending day after day with the same people made them closer as a team.
“We talked about girls, baseball and school mostly,” Cordova said. “Just a lot of B.S.ing.”
Junior shortstop Jason Seefeld said the Wildcats also learned they needed to get better if they expected to get back to the playoffs.
“I think we came back knowing it was going to be a long season if we didn’t pick it up. We’ve been a lot more focused in practice.”
The Wildcats picked up the pace in district play, going 9-3 and tying Carlsbad for the regular-season title.
Clovis averaged nearly nine runs a game in district play while cutting down significantly on errors.
“After the first three games in Carlsbad, I challenged the bottom half of the lineup to contribute more (at the plate) and they have,” Shallenberger said. “The last nine games they’ve been stepping up with a lot of hits and runs.”
The Wildcats are batting .339 as a team with 17 home runs — the majority coming in district play. Seven players have hit homers for the Cats, including seven by Seefeld — which ties the school record — and three by junior catcher Richard Urban.
“You’re always going to have holes in the lineup in high school baseball,” Shallenberger said. “But we’re pretty solid one through nine in our lineup.”
Meanwhile, in the field, the Wildcats have committed 17 errors in 12 district contests after being charged with 44 in the first 14 games.
Seefeld said the trip was long, maybe even too long, But he can’t argue with the results.
“When we got home a lot of us told each other we didn’t want to see each other for three days,” Seefeld said. “It was difficult. After that we couldn’t wait for the district season to begin.”
The Wildcats play at top-ranked and undefeated La Cueva (26-0) at noon on Saturday in the round of eight.