Struggling Wildcats try to stay positive

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

It’s “wait til next year” for the Clovis High and Cibola baseball teams.

Both have already been eliminated from the District 4-5A race as they prepare for a three-game weekend series, starting with today’s 4 p.m. single game at Cibola.

While the defending Class 5A state runnerup Wildcats (7-13, 0-6 district) have struggled with erratic play in the second half of the season, Cougars coach Robert Erp said his squad (7-14, 2-7) has been competitive in most games.

“What we’re going to try to do is hopefully send our seniors out the right way,” said Erp, whose team will have only a non-league contest against Valley left after this weekend.

“The one thing is we’ve only been blown out three times this year — (once) against Sandia and two games against La Cueva. Other than that, we’ve played good enough to win.”

CHS senior pitcher-right fielder John Props said the Cats simply have to motivate themselves.

“Losing your first six (district) games, you can’t do that and expect to go to the playoffs,” he said. “We just want to have fun. We can win the next six games if we keep ourselves focused.”

The series will be a reunion of sorts for Erp and his Clovis counterpart, Shane Shallenberger. They were assistantsat Portales High for one season, then Shallenberger served as Erp’s assistant for three years at Gallup before each took his current position.

Both also played baseball at Eastern New Mexico University.

“He and I are really good friends,” Erp said. “I think both of us are just in kind of a rebuilding mode for next year.”

Shallenberger said his team will go all out in its remaining six games.

“We’re still trying,” he said. “We’re still keeping a positive attitude. We’re trying to let the seniors enjoy the last six games and get the younger kids ready for next year.”

Erp said the Cougars, who lost to district-leading Sandia 14-4, 8-5 and 13-12 last weekend, will throw senior right-hander Bobby Bunch in today’s tilt. Bunch, who also plays first base and is one of the team’s top hitters, has gone 1-2 in district pitching starts.

“He’s thrown well enough to be 3-0,” said Erp, who added that junior infielder Chris Eaton “also swings the bat well.”