Clovis High’s Matt Ulibarri slides safely into third during a game against Roswell Goddard earlier this season. Ulibarri and teammate Sean Cruce have signed to play baseball next year at Eastern New Mexico University. (CNJ file photo)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Clovis High graduates Sean Cruce and Matt Ulibarri are happy to be staying close to home.
Cruce and Ulibarri signed national letters of intent to play baseball next season at Eastern New Mexico University. Both were four-year regulars for the Wildcats under former ENMU player Shane Shallenberger.
The school also announced the signing of Damion Swisher, a left-handed pitcher from Gilbert, Ariz., who has spent the last two seasons at Phoenix College.
As sophomores in 2004, Cruce played second base and Ulibarri center field on Clovis’ Class 5A state runnerup team. Cruce, a four-year starter at CHS, moved to shortstop as a junior and has also been a mainstay on the mound for the Wildcats.
“It’s a good program,” Cruce said. “Hopefully, I can go there and help the team any way I can.”
He said he wouldn’t mind the opportunity to pitch if it came along.
“Any way I can get on the field is good,” he said.
Cruce’s older brother, Richard, spent four years as a second baseman at Lone Star Conference South Division rival West Texas A&M.
“Sean is one of the few high school players I’ve talked to who understands the Lone Star Conference,” Clabaugh said. “That gives him a leg up. He’s a heady, intelligent player anyway, and I think his understanding of the league plays right into that.”
Clabaugh said he likes the range displayed by Ulibarri, a three-year starter at Clovis.
“He really covers some ground in the outfield,” Clabaugh said. “He has some pop in his bat, and he runs very well.
“It’s a matter of how well he adapts to the ‘short’ game. (If he does) he’s got the chance to be an impact player.”
Ulibarri said he got away from that as a senior, when he erupted for four home runs for the Cats.
“I played the short game all the way through high school (until then),” he said. “I think the biggest adjustment will be to college pitching. That’ll be tough day-in and day-out.”
Ulibarri also liked the school’s proximity.
“It’s close to home,” he said. “My family can come see me, and I’ll still be able to come home on occasion.”
Swisher, who will be a junior in the fall, was a key pitcher for Phoenix College for the past two seasons. Prior to that, he helped Higley High School in Gilbert reach the Arizona Class 3A state championship game.
“What he has done in the past tells us that he’s going to throw the curveball and fastball for strikes,” Clabaugh said. “We’re looking for him to challenge for a spot in our starting rotation.”