Cats beat Valley, get rematch with Rio Rancho in finals

CNJ staff

RIO RANCHO — The Clovis High baseball team got a power surge from an unlikely source Friday, and it propelled them into the finals of the Rio Rancho Invitational.

Junior Jonathan Ware blasted a grand slam home run, highlighting a six-run first inning that lifted the Wildcats past Valley 10-5 in a semifinal matchup.

The Cats (5-2) will now take on host Rio Rancho in today’s 3:30 p.m. championship game. Clovis defeated the Rams 6-5 on Feb. 25 at Bell Park in the finals of its own season-opening invitational meet.

“We finally played a game and had limited mistakes,” CHS coach Shane Shallenberger said. “I know we had three errors, but the wind was just devastating.

“I was pleased with the way our kids showed up ready to play today. We played hard the whole game.”

Junior Cade Wheeler was the beneficiary of the early offense, pitching four solid innings for the win. He allowed six hits and three earned runs, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

In addition to the grand slam, the Cats got run-scoring singles from Chase Denton and Parker Wood to open a 6-1 lead after one inning. Clovis made it 9-2 with a three-run fourth, helped by two Rio Rancho errors and aided by a sacrifice fly from Daniel Casarez.

The Vikings (1-4), who beat Farmington 6-2 on Thursday, closed to 9-5 with a three-run fifth before Denton added another RBI single in the bottom of the inning.

Casarez relieved Wheeler with no one out in the top of the fifth and worked two innings, allowing two hits and striking out four.

The game was called after 5 1/2 innings because of the tournament’s two-hour, 15-minute time limit.

The Cats finished the game with seven hits, spread among six players. Denton was 2-for-3, while Ulibarri and Wheeler both stole three bases.

Rio Rancho advanced with a 9-3 win over St. Pius in the first semifinal game. Shallenberger said the rematch should be interesting.

“They’re going to be ready to play us since we beat them in our tournament,” he said. “We’ve just got to play a good solid game and eliminate mental mistakes, and we’ll have a chance.”