Clovis senior Jason Seefled warms up on deck during Saturday’s sacrimmage against Portales at Bell Park. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Dave Wagner
In its first two seasons under Shane Shallenberger, the Clovis High baseball team moved steadily up the District 4-5A ladder and earned berths in the regional round of postseason.
With several regulars back this spring, albeit some in different roles, the Wildcats are striving to continue the upward trend.
“We definitely have high expectations as a team,” Shallenberger said as the Cats prepare to host a season-opening, eight-team invitational next weekend at Bell Park. “We have seven returning starters back, so we have a lot of varsity experience.”
Clovis finished 17-10 in 2003, including 9-3 to tie Carlsbad for the 4-5A title. But because the Cavemen took two of three in their head-to-head series, the Cats were relegated to the No. 2 seed and had to travel for the regionals.
They played competitively against unbeaten eventual Class 5A champion La Cueva before losing to the Bears 7-3.
This year, the Cats will build around senior shortstop-pitcher Jason Seefeld, a University of Arizona signee who hit .458 last season with a school-record eight home runs and 22 RBIs. He also had five saves as a closer.
Shallenberger plans to keep him in the closer’s role, and playing shortstop as often as possible.
“He’ll start if it’s the championship game of a tournament and we haven’t used him,” Shallenberger said.
Other regulars back are senior catcher Richard Urban, senior third baseman Mark Young, sophomore second baseman Sean Cruce, senior first baseman Ryan Denton, senior center fielder Mark Replogle and senior pitcher-outfielder Robert Riggins.
“I think we definitely have a chance to make it to the final four,” said Replogle, who hit .344 with eight stolen bases out of the No. 9 hole last season. “But our goal is to win district and pretty much win it all.”
Young, who split time between the mound and left field last year, is recuperating from ACL surgery after an injury sustained during football season. Shallenberger said he could miss five to 10 games, but thinks he’ll be back by the start of district play in early April.
Young has been moved to third base while last year’s third sacker, Cruce, takes over at second for the graduated Matt Cordova. Denton was primarily a designated hitter last season, earning all-district honors.
Riggins and Young, both right-handers, move up in the pitching rotation with the graduation of Darren Davis. Urban should also get a look, Shallenberger said.
“Until Mark Young gets healthy, we’ve got to do what we can to get by,” Shallenberger said. “When he gets back, (the probable rotation) will be Young, Riggins and Urban.”
Replogle is likely to step into the first or second spot in the batting order this season, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“As seniors, we’ve got to be leaders,” Replogle said. “We know this is our last year and we only have one more chance.
“We’ve just got to play hard and play smart. If we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”
Other candidates for playing time include sophomores Matt Ulibarri and Eric Smith and junior John Props in the outfield, and juniors Luke Gray and Jason Burns at the corners. Gray could also see time on the mound, Shallenberger said.
The Cats anticipate a tough district race.
“It’s always up in the air in our district; I think everybody’s competitive,” Shallenberger said. “But I think overall we probably have more returning starters than anybody else.”
26-28 — Clovis Invitational (Clovis, Hobbs, Rio Rancho, Levelland, Palo Duro, Fabens, St. Michael’s, Moriarty), TBD.
2 — at Tascosa, 3 p.m.; 5 — at Amarillo High, 2:30 p.m.; 11-13 — at Rio Rancho tournament, TBD; 20 — Artesia, 1/3 p.m.; 27 — at Alamogordo, 1/3 p.m.
2 — Carlsbad, 4/6 p.m.-x; 3 — Carlsbad, 10 a.m.-x; 9 — at Manzano, 4 p.m.-x; 10 — at Manzano, 10 a.m./noon-x; 17 — Alamogordo, 1/3 p.m.; 23 — Eldorado, 4/6 p.m.-x; 24 — Eldorado, 10 a.m.-x; 30 — at Hobbs, 4/6 p.m.-x.
1 — at Hobbs, 10 a.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes District 4-5A games.