By Dave Wagner
Clovis Sparks coach Steve Gulley said his team wasn’t concerned when it lost to the Alamogordo Jokers in Sunday’s 16-and-under winners bracket finals of the USSSA girls state slow-pitch tournament on Sunday at Guy Leeder Complex.
The Sparks came back with three consecutive wins, including 7-2 and 8-2 verdicts over the Jokers, to claim their fourth consecutive state title.
“The girls played hard,” Gulley said. “Once they lost that one, they figured they’d better step it up.”
The Sparks, who won at 12-and-under in 2001 and at 14-and-under each of the last two years, were one of four Clovis teams to emerge as champions in the six-bracket state get-together at Guy Leeder Complex. The Lookouts took the 14-and-under crown, Power II won at 12-and-under and the Blitz ran away with the 10-and-under title.
Gulley said the Sparks had beaten the Jokers before, so the 12-11 loss in the winners final only strengthened their resolve. He added that they’ve beaten an Alamo team to claim each of their titles.
“This team has been together a long time,” he said. “I’ve only picked up one or two players over the past few years.
“It’s kind of a rivalry (against the Jokers). They want to beat us pretty bad.”
Because the Sparks, who have played in the Clovis Softball Association’s women’s league this year, have a number of players who have job and other commitments, they don’t plan to attend national USSSA competition July 30-Aug. 1 in Moore, Okla.
Lookouts coach Art Gallegos, on the other hand, said his team will decided at a pizza party on Wednesday whether or not to go to Oklahoma.
The Lookouts reached the 16-and-under finals with a 17-6 pounding of the Ruidoso Lady Warriors, but lost to Ruidoso 16-7 in the first championship game before coming back with a 16-7 win in the “if” game. The Lookouts led 7-6 before breaking the finale open in the last two innings.
“I expected (to win) this year,” Gallegos said. “We went through a few problems last year, but the girls have been playing really well.”
The key game may have been a 4-3 squeaker over fellow Clovis team Girl Power.
“That was a good defensive battle,” Gallegos said. “Both teams didn’t make too many errors.”
In the 12-and-unders, Power II lost 11-10 to Clovis X-Plosions in Sunday morning’s winner’s bracket final before coming back with three wins — the last two over X-Plosions.
“We came back the long road,” coach Julio Rubio said. “I think (the X-Plosions) were surprised; we hadn’t beaten them all year.”
Power II followed its loss with a 13-3 pounding of the Alamogordo Mystics to get to the finals.
“We were worried about that game,” Rubio said. “We knew they had a lot of girls who could hit the ball, but we did pretty good against them. We shut their batting game down, and we found their (defensive) weak spots.”
Rubio said, though, that Power II won’t make the trip to nationals because it was unable to raise the money.
Clovis Blitz lived up to its team name, improving to 24-0 for the season by winning all four games in the 10-and-under division. Coach Yolanda Aguilar said her squad will make the trip to nationals for the first time.
“Roger (Jackson, tournament director) said it’s the recreation (bracket), not competitive, so he feels like we may do pretty well up there,” Aguilar said.
The Blitz had only one close call, an 11-8 opening-round win over Clovis Sting. The other three victories were by an average of 10 runs.
“We got the state tourney jitters that first game,” Aguilar said. “That’s a league team; we’d beaten them before.”
Aguilar’s husband coached Clovis Mini-Blitz to a second-place finish in the 8-and-under division. They have a daughter on each of the teams.
Other division winners over the weekend were Hobbs Wrecking Crew (19-and-under) and the Loving Lil Astros (8-and-under).