Cats cruise past Palo Duro

Clovis High’s Jordan Jacobs is tagged out by Amarillo Palo Duro third baseman Heath Weatherbee as he tries to stretch a double into a triple during the first game of Saturday’s baseball doubleheader at Bell Park. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

As far as the struggling Amarillo Palo Duro baseball team was concerned, Clovis High picked a bad time to play two solid games.

The Wildcats scored in every inning of both games and smacked the winless Dons 11-1 and 19-2 on Saturday at Bell Park, with both ending in the fifth inning because of the 10-run rule.

Palo Duro (0-7) tried to make a game of it in the nightcap, pulling to 4-2 with a run in the top of the fourth, only to see the Cats send 21 batters to the plate and score 15 runs in the bottom of the inning.

First-year coach Scott Love said the Dons were winless last season, and haven’t won a game in about two years.

“Our kids don’t have a lot of experience; we start five sophomores,” Love said. “We seem to play well for a while, and then we give up one big inning every game.”

Clovis (4-1), playing without senior Cade Wheeler (flu), got solid pitching performances from senior Jonathan Ware in the opener and junior Josh Burrell in the second game. Ware allowed two hits, while Burrell gave up three.

Ware also went 4-for-7 at the plate in the twin bill, with five runs scored and six RBIs. He hit a two-run single to end the first game, then added an RBI triple, a sacrifice fly and a two-run double in the nightcap.

He said he felt strong in the first game, throwing just 65 pitches. Ware struck out six and allowed only three baserunners.

“I didn’t think about anything,” he said, referring to Wheeler’s absence. “I just threw and knew my defense would be behind me. We just put it all together today.”

Clovis broke open the first game with a six-run second that featured only three hits — a suicide squeeze bunt single by Omar Sosa, Andrew Gilliard’s two-run single and an RBI single by Jordan Jacobs — as the Dons committed three errors.

Burrell was nearly as effective, giving up unearned runs in the first and fourth. He issued just one walk and struck out four.

The Cats collected 12 hits, with first baseman Parker Wood and Gilliard each going 3-for-3. Wood doubled twice and scored four runs, while Gilliard scored two runs and drove in two.

“I thought Jonny (Ware) did a real good job today, and so did J.B. (Burrell),” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “Our pitchers did a really good job of keeping them off the bases and throwing strikes.

“It was nice to throw only two pitchers, even though we’d been off a week. We only had two weeks of (preseason) practice time (due to snow), and we had some sore arms.”

Shallenberger admitted he was concerned about not having Wheeler, who splits time between pitching, catching and shortstop.

“I was nervous,” he said. “Cade’s definitely a big part or our team, but the guys did a good job of filling in.”