Clovis, Portales gain semifinals

Clovis’ Jonathan Ware pitches to a Levelland hitter during Friday’s Clovis Invitational tournament at Bell Park. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Cade Wheeler didn’t get off to the kind of start on Friday that he’d hoped for on the mound.

Leave it to an older hand to help him get on track.

Wheeler, who will be a senior at Clovis High in the fall, was touched up for three runs in the top of the first by Amarillo Tascosa, but settled in after that and helped the Wildcats rally for a 5-4, eight-inning victory in pool play of the 12-team Clovis Invitational summer baseball tournament at Bell Park.

Clovis (4-0) went on to capture Pool A with a 13-5 rout of Levelland in its second game on Friday. The Cats play Pool C winner in an 11:15 a.m. championship semifinal today at Bell Park.

Still trailing Tascosa 4-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Wheeler hit a one-out RBI triple to score Josh Burrell, who led off the inning with a single. Wheeler then came home on a groundout by Omar Sosa.

Andrew Gilliland’s one-out single delivered Parker Wood with the game-winner in the eighth.

“It was nice to come back,” Clovis coach Shane Leatherwood said. “These kids like to play hard. As long as we’re making adjustments, you can’t complain.”

Wheeler allowed six hits over seven innings, with four walks and 10 strikeouts. T.J. Farmer picked up the win with a scoreless eighth.

“Cade pitched well and kept us in it,” Leatherwood said. “He settled down after the first and threw really well.”

Wheeler said a visit with assistant coach and former CHS pitcher Robert Riggins was beneficial.

“I was kind of rusty coming out, and I got all shook up,” Wheeler said. “Riggins told me to just calm down relax and throw. He’s helped me out on my mechanics over the last couple of days.”

He said coming off a break following the spring season, it took a while to get reacclimated to pitching. Still, he enjoyed the time away.

“Having the break we’ve had let all of us kind of relax,” Wheeler said. “I think it was good for us to be able to do that.”

Both teams had seven hits, with Wheeler, Burrell and Gilliland getting two apiece for the Cats.

Clovis collected 13 hits and scored in every inning in cruising to a six-inning, run-rule win over Levelland. Jonathan Ware went the distance, allowing 11 hits and striking out five.

Wheeler went 3-for-5 with a double and three runs scored. First baseman Parker Wood was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles, including the game-ender in the sixth, while Ware and Jarod Kiser each finished 2-for-4.

Portales wins pool — At Portales, the host Rams were awarded the Pool B title on a tiebreaker after all three teams went 1-1. Portales had 13 points (based on seven points for a win and one-point for margin of victory up to seven), while Plainview had nine points and Roswell Goddard eight.

Portales lost to Plainview 11-9 in the opener, but got shutout pitching from Mario Salazar in a 6-0 win over Goddard. Plainview posted a 2-1 win over Goddard.

Portales plays Pool D winner Hobbs in a 1:30 p.m. semifinal game today at Ram Field.

The Rams rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth in the opener, including three on a double by Todd McBroom, but fell short. The game was called after six by a two-hour time limit.

Rams coach Dusty Nusser said Salazar was in control the entire way against Goddard.

“He threw really, really well,” Nusser said.