Entering his third season at the helm, Clovis High baseball coach Greg Hill is hoping this is the year the Wildcats break out.
Clovis opens its 2011 today with a 3 p.m. doubleheader against Portales (0-2) at Bell Park.
Hill thinks the Cats (14-12-1, 2-6 District 4-5A last season) have enough experience and talent to challenge perennial district power Carlsbad.
“We’ve got five seniors who are great athletes and good leaders,” Hill said. “We plan on playing for a district title, and those guys are vital. We have to have them buy in to what we’re doing.”
They include pitcher-third baseman Craig Cook, catcher Brenden Graham, pitcher-first baseman Tanner Massanari, shortstop Juan Rivas and center fielder Jordan Hill, the coach’s son.
Graham, who batted .372 with four homers and 20 RBIs last season, said he’s anxious to get going.
“We’re looking to have a pretty solid season,” said Graham, who transferred to Clovis from Las Vegas, Nev., last year. “I’m starting to understand how everything works. Being in Clovis, it’s a small town and you get a lot of support.
“We have a chance to do something big this year. We have a real solid team.”
Graham, who plans to play junior college baseball at Lamar (Colo.) next year, will catch most of the Cats’ games and said he’s preparing himself for the grind.
“Coach puts it on me to take care of myself,” Graham said. “A lot of conditioning goes into it.”
Hill said the Cats have six candidates for pitching roles in Massanari and Cook, juniors Matt Woodbury, Robbie Coleman and Ethan Dennie and sophomore Tyler Green. Dennie is a left-hander, the others are righties.
Massanari (2-4, 3.47 ERA in seven games, including one start) has by far the most mound experience of that group.
Green and junior A.J. Marez could spell Graham on occasion, Hill said. Massanari (.481, nine HRs, 35 RBIs) or Woodbury, a move-in from Colorado Springs, Colo., will split most of the time at first with junior Jared Hughes and Marez competing at second base.
Rivas (.257, six triples) played second last year and will move to shortstop, with Cook (.386) and Massanari seeing time at third.
Jordan Hill (.402, 26 SBs), a third-year starter, will be in center, with junior Tre Orozco in left and Green likely in right. Sophomore Cole Glover is another outfield candidate.
Coach Hill said he doesn’t plan to use a designated hitter. “All nine guys can swing it pretty good,” he said.
Junior Scott Lybarger and Dennie are other possibilities for outfield time, although Lybarger is sidelined until at least next week with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand.
“This is the year we really have a lot of pieces we need to win,” coach Hill said. “With hard work and a little bit of luck, we should be fine.”
Carlsbad remains the team to beat in the district, Hill said.
“Carlsbad, what can you say?” he said. “Coach (Kenny) Groves has a good program. And Hobbs, from what I understand, has a bunch of kids who are playing good.”
15 — Portales (2), 3 p.m.; 17-19 — Four Corners Shootout at Farmington; 22 — at Roswell High (2), 4 p.m.; 24-26 — at Elk City, Okla.
2 — at Artesia (2), 1 p.m.; 5 — Roswell Goddard (2), 4 p.m.; 9 — at Amarillo Palo Duro (2), 11 a.m.; 12 — Amarillo Tascosa, 4 p.m.; 16 — at Hobbs (2), 11 a.m.-x; 19 — at Carlsbad (2), 4 p.m.-x; 26 — Hobbs (2), 4 p.m.-x; 29 — Carlsbad (2), 11 a.m.-x.
All times MDT. x-Denote District 4-5A games.