CHS BASEBALL: Cats advance to finals

El Paso Del Valle’s Steve Visaino slides home safely with a run on a first-inning wild pitch as Clovis High pitcher Jonathan Ware takes a late return throw on Friday at Bell Park. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

Freshman Emery Sierra supplied the power and senior Jonathan Ware the pitching as Clovis advanced to the championship game of the Clovis Invitational.

Sierra slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the third inning and Ware settled down after a rocky start as Clovis beat El Paso Del Valle 5-3 in Friday’s semifinals at Bell Park.

The Wildcats (2-0) face Rio Rancho at 5 p.m. in today’s championship game. Rio Rancho thumped Santa Fe 20-6 in the earlier semifinal matchup.

Ware, who gave up three runs in the first, allowed six hits and struck out two in a game that was called after five innings due to the tournament’s two-hour time limit.

“It’s good to know when I get in a jam that I have my defense behind me,” Ware said. “They made some great plays tonight.”

Clovis took the lead for good at 4-3 in the third when Sierra followed junior Andrew Gilliard’s two out walked by drilling a fastball over the fence in left-center.

Sierra added an infield single in the first.

Del Valle threatened in the top of the fourth after putting runners at first and second on a walk and error. Del Valle centerfielder Joshua Cordero sent a shot to the left-center fence, but Clovis sophomore Moses Bibbs chased it down for the second out. Ware got the final out on a grounder to short.

Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said it was a team victory.

“I thought we played very well,” Shallenberger said. “We got down, but the kids got together and played as a team. It was a total team effort.”

Del Valle coach Neil Sanchez, a former Clovis player, said baserunning in the fourth led to his squad’s loss.

“It’s always great to back here and see how Shane’s developed the program,” Sanchez said. “We had some trouble in the fourth with our baserunning, and that comes with our youth.”

In the Del Valle first, Steve Visaino singled and moved to third on a double by Cordero. Visaino scored and Cordero moved to third on Ware’s wild pitch. Pitcher Isaac Herrera pulled a single to left field to bring in Cordero and make it 3-0.

After a walk, Ware got out of the jam with a strikeout, a flyout and a groundout to shortstop.