Cats, Hobbs split baseball doubleheader

By Dave Wagner
Sports writer
dwagner@cnjonline.com
Either side could easily have swept Tuesday’s District 4-6A baseball doubleheader at Bell Park. Instead, after nearly six hours, the teams settled for a split.

Stunningly, Clovis High let a nine-run lead get away late in the opener and lost 11-10 in eight innings. Hobbs stranded 27 baserunners, including 14 in the nightcap in which the Wildcats claimed a 7-4 victory over the Eagles.

The result leaves Hobbs (14-10, 5-5 district) in second place, but still needing at least a split against 4-6A champion Carlsbad (19-5, 9-1) at home on Friday. If the Eagles lose two, the Cats (13-11, 3-7) could wrest second place with a sweep at home of Alamogordo (8-16, 3-7) by virtue of their earlier 8-4 win over Carlsbad.

The Cats’ seven district losses have been by a total of 10 runs, including five by one.

“For as bad as it’s been,” said CHS coach Richard Cruce, who was ejected from Tuesday’s second game with the Cats trailing 3-0 and will have to sit out Friday’s opener as a result, “we still control our own destiny.”

That is, of course, if they win twice on Friday and get the help they need from the Cavemen.

“Right now, that’s all you can ask for is a chance,” said senior first baseman Gabriel Montoya,  who reached base in seven of eight at-bats in the twin bill, including all five in the opener. “Come Friday, we have to show up, we have to win two.”

Keaton Greenwalt and Austin Adams hit RBI doubles and Jason Freeman added a two-run single in a four-run fifth which put the Cats in front 7-3 in the nightcap. Adams labored through six innings on the mound despite issuing nine walks and hitting a batter.

Sophomore Connor Langrell, pitching for the first time this season, relieved Adams to start the seventh and left with the bases loaded and one out. But first-game starter Daniel Gallegos managed to get the final two outs, helped by Adams’ sliding catch in right field.

“Daniel wasn’t Daniel today,” Cruce said, noting Gallegos struggled with command even before a mind-boggling 10-run sixth that put Hobbs in front 10-9 in the opener. “But Daniel comes back and does what he can do. I didn’t like bringing him back, but we didn’t have a lot left (in the pitching department).”

Cruce said he wasn’t trying to spark his team when he was ejected for arguing a potential out call at third base in the third inning of the nightcap, but the Cats promptly tied it with three runs in the bottom half.

“I think maybe a little bit,” Montoya said when asked about it. “It was do-or-die for us. We knew we had to win one game, at least.”

Hobbs went through four pitchers in the opener, with senior left-hander Ty Marquez earning a save after the Eagles took the lead on sophomore Jaden Hutchins’ RBI single, his fifth hit of the contest, in the eighth inning. Typical of the day, though, Marquez loaded the bases before getting CHS sophomore Jace Piepkorn on a full-count called strike to end it.

Clearly, veteran Hobbs coach Marco Boyle was anticipating a low-scoring game when he sacrificed near the bottom of his lineup with one on and out early in the first game.

“Sometimes when you put bunts down, it can lead to big innings,” he explained. “We were just trying to catch them off-guard.”

Kurt Kelley’s leadoff triple set the stage for a four-run third, and the Cats nearly won it on the run rule in the fifth before Hobbs used a home-to-first double play to help keep the game alive.

“We battled through and made some stuff happen,” Boyle said. “I was proud of the way we played today.”

The Cats tied it 10-10 on Hunter Pipal’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth. Each team had 13 hits and stranded 13 runners in the game.