Clovis senior John Props slides back to first base during a pick off attempt in the first game of a doubleheader Friday against Sandia at Bell Park. Props was safe but Sandia defeated Clovis 18-3. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
After seeing the opposition score 81 times in its last five games, the Clovis High baseball squad must have looked upon an 8-6 loss Saturday to Sandia as practically a pitcher’s duel, and a welcome one at that.
What it was, however, was the culmination of a three-game sweep at home at the hands of the visiting Matadors — albeit with some positive signs.
On Friday, Clovis was at the receiving end of 18-3 and 16-5 losses by Sandia.
On Saturday as Wildcats’ starter John Props and reliever Jared Powers pitched capably to keep Clovis (7-13, 0-6 in 4-5A) within striking range.
Sandia (13-4, 3-0) did build up an 8-2 lead before the ‘Cats came close in the final innings.
“I thought our pitchers threw great today, they kept us in the game,” Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said.
A 2-2 tie was broken when Sandia’s Phil Nevada singled in Mike Scarlett in the fourth inning. In the fifth, a three-run rally by the Matadors began with a single to left by Robbie Platt, which was followed by a high, long drive for a double by Tyler Swisher and an RBI single from Zach Mancha.
Sandia went ahead 8-2 with two more runs in the sixth before Clovis began to chip away.
Wildcats’ catcher Daniel Casarez drove home two with a single in the bottom of the sixth inning. In the seventh, Props opened with a double and came home on a sacrifice fly which was followed by an infield hit by Sean Cruce to score another.
Platt, on in relief for the Matadors, ended the final threat by striking out Powers.
“I think we battled all day, got some runs when we needed to and (starting pitcher) Michael Scarlett really settled down and did a nice job for us,” Sandia coach Mike Robertson said.
Clovis’ Powers saw his first varsity pitching action in the series against Sandia, striking out the only batter he faced on Friday and then coming in to relieve in the sixth on Saturday.
Although he walked in one run and hit a Matadors’ batter to send home another, Powers also retired the side in order in the seventh — a rarity accomplished only one other time by Clovis hurlers in the three-game set.
“Today it seemed like they (the pitchers) were more focused. They threw pretty well, threw strikes and got ground balls,” Casarez said. “It’s really hard for us to lose three in a row like that, but we’ve got to learn from it — just keep coming back and fighting for everything.”
Matt Ulibarri was a bright spot at the plate for Clovis on Friday, going 4-for-8 with a pair of doubles and a triple.