Nine-run fourth boosts Cats past Santa Fe

CNJ staff

RIO RANCHO — The Clovis High baseball team has become pretty comfortable against Santa Fe High.

The Wildcats scored their fourth consecutive victory over the Demons in the last two seasons on Thursday with a 15-6 triumph in the first round of the Rio Rancho Invitational. Clovis (4-2) will now meet Valley, a 6-2 winner on Thursday over Farmington, in a 3:30 p.m. semifinal contest today.

The first championship semifinal, at 1 p.m., will pit host Rio Rancho against St. Pius. The host Rams blew away Albuquerque High 23-3 while St. Pius downed Roswell High 8-4 in Thursday’s early quarterfinals.

Saturday’s championship game is set for 3:30 p.m.

Junior Jonathan Ware went the distance in the five-inning game, shortened by the eight-run rule. He allowed eight hits but only two earned runs, with two walks and two strikeouts.

“Jonathan did a good job,” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “He threw strikes and kept us in the game. We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes behind our pitching staff.”

The Cats erased a 3-2 deficit with a four-run third, highlighted by Chase Denton’s two-run homer. Then, after the Demons tied the score with three in the top of the fourth, Clovis erupted against reliever Richard Pacheco for nine runs in the bottom half.

The key blows in that frame were a three-run double by Matt Ulibarri, a run-scoirng double by Parker Wood and an RBI single by Daniel Casarez.

“We made some mistakes and let them back in the ballgame,” Shallenberger said, referring to his team’s four fielding errors. “But the kids came back and put up some runs. We overcame our mistakes today, luckily.

“I’m just proud of the kids because they competed well.”

Clovis beat the Demons 13-5 in the Cats’ season-opening tournament, and also beat Santa Fe last year for the title in the Clovis tourney and for seventh place at Rio Rancho.

Shallenberger said junior Cade Wheeler will get the call on the mound today, with senior Sean Cruce likely to start in the final round on Saturday.