If winter is making one its last gasps before giving way to spring, it must be time for the season-opening Clovis Invitational baseball tournament.
A year after two games were delayed by a few inches of snow and two years after an inch of hail covered the field, the weather is expected to be frosty with a good chance of snow for the three-day tournament starting at Bell Park.
“Nothing surprises me this year,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said. “Anything the good Lord brings, we’ll try to get it taken care of.”
Shallenberger said he doesn’t see the cold weather affecting one team more than any other as all are from the New Mexico-Texas region.
The Cats open up against Fabens, Texas, for the second year in a row. Clovis beat Fabens 14-1 last year on their way to the tournament championship, a 26-4 record and a second-place finish in the Class 5A State Tournament.
“We’re excited to play,” Shallenberger said. “We’re ready to quit practicing and play another opponent. We’re looking pretty good.”
Also set to compete are Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and Texas schools Del Valle, Palo Duro, Hereford and 2003 tournament champion Levelland.
“Our tournament’s kind of gotten big enough that people kind of contact us, and it’s first come first serve,” Shallenberger said. “It’s definitely a good tournament.”
Shallenberger said fans should expect three different starting lineups as players battle for starting spots and playing time.
“That’s what we find out at the start of the year, who can get it done and who can’t,” he said.
He added that pitchers are going to be worked slowly into the season. Each one has a pitch count suited to how much they’ve played over the offseason and the cold weather could effect if pitchers can stay loose while the Cats are up to bat.
Still, Shallenberger said he’s managing to win.
“We play to win at this level,” he said. “We’re going to do what it takes to win every time. We’re not going to play kids just to play them.”
Levelland vs. Del Valle, 9:30 a.m.
Rio Rancho vs. Palo Duro, Noon
Hereford vs. Santa Fe, 2:30 p.m.
Clovis vs. Fabens, 5 p.m.