Carlsbad coach Tom Forni argues with plate umpire David Briseno over an out call at home on the Cavemen’s Steven Miehls to end the inning. Forni was ejected from the game. Photo by Eric Kluth
By Dave Wagner
Sophomore center fielder Matt Ulibarri, batting ninth in the order, started three rallies as the Clovis Wildcats charged past previously unbeaten Carlsbad 7-3 for a split of a critical season-opening District 4-5A baseball doubleheader Friday at Bell Park.
The Cavemen (13-1) took the first game 7-0 behind the three-hit pitching of left-hander Brian Flores.
Carlsbad and Clovis are considered co-favorites in 4-5A by league coaches.
Ulibarri launched a double to center field to start a two-run third, walked to lead off a four-run fifth and singled and scored an insurance run in the sixth as the Cats (12-2) rebounded from their first-game loss.
“I’m just glad I can contribute finally and get on base,” said Ulibarri, who had one of the Cats’ three singles against Flores in the opener. “I was just trying to get on base and get the first hit of the game.”
Senior right-hander Mark Young threw five strong innings for the win. Reliever Jason Seefeld gave up five singles in the sixth, including two of the infield variety, but right fielder John Props minimized the damage by throwing out Steven Miehls trying to score from second on the final hit, a play that resulted in the ejection of Carlsbad coach Tom Forni.
“The kids fought back in the second game,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said. “They put the ball in play and tried to make things happen.”
The Cats were outhit 24-8 for the day, including 16-3 in the opener, but bunched almost everything into their three scoring innings in the nightcap.
“We just made errors in critical situations, and you can’t do that against a good ballclub,” Forni said.
After reaching second to start the third inning when Miehls couldn’t run down his wind-blown drive in center, Ulibarri took a wide turn around third when shortstop Chris Ortega threw low to first on Mark Replogle’s grounder for an error.
Ulibarri got himself hung up between third and home on the play, but stayed in the rundown long enough to allow Replogle to approach third base. Ulibarri then dove safely into third, and the Cavemen allowed Replogle to scamper back to second.
Ulibarri raced home on a wild pitch before Seefeld delivered the first of his three consecutive run-scoring singles. The Cats added four runs on only one hit in the fifth for a 6-1 lead, the rally starting with a walk to Ulibarri.
Ulibarri then led off the sixth with a single and eventually scored on Seefeld’s third hit.
“Matt’s a gamer,” Shallenberger said. “He’ll do anything he has to do to get the job done. Mark (Young) threw really well tonight. He was in the (strike) zone and he was spotting up real well.”
Young was strong through the fifth, but said he didn’t disagree with Shallenberger’s decision to lift him.
“I threw a lot of curve balls and my arm was hurting,” said Young, who allowed three hits with three walks and five strikeouts. “I was hitting my spots tonight, and when you do that they have to beat you the hard way.
“It was my best pitching performance of the year. When you can pitch like that against Carlsbad, you know you’re having a good night.”
The Cavemen handed senior right-hander Robert Riggins his first loss in two seasons in the opener, scoring five runs on four hits in the third, helped by two Clovis errors.
That was more than enough for Flores, who was coming off consecutive no-hitters against Socorro, Texas, and Alamogordo. He walked four and struck out 10.
“For the weather conditions, I thought he did a great job,” Forni said. “He did what he had to do to win.”
Carlsbad 7, Clovis 0
Carlsbad 005 000 2 — 7 16 0
Clovis 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
Brian Flores and Nathan Meek; Robert Riggins, Ryan Denton (7) and Richard Urban. W — Flores. L — Riggins. DP — Clovis 2. LOB — Carlsbad 8, Clovis 7. 2B — Carlsbad: Chris Ortega. T — 1:54.
Clovis 7, Carlsbad 3
Carlsbad 000 012 0 — 3 8 3
Clovis 002 041 x — 7 5 1
Meek, Todd Weldon (6) and A.J. Rodriguez, Meek (6); Mark Young, Jason Seefeld (6) and Urban. W — Young. L — Meek. DP — Clovis 2. LOB — Carlsbad 4, Clovis 6. 2B — Carlsbad: Marcel Dominguez. Clovis: Matt Ulibarri. T — 1:57.