Brian Cronk used to sport the purple of Clovis High School when he was an assistant baseball coach. On Thursday, though, the former ENMU player returned wearing purple of another variety.
As head coach of the Canyon High softball team, Cronk and his Lady Eagles knocked off Clovis 6-1 at the Lady Wildcat Complex.
For Cronk’s team, it was a break from the late stages of a district race as Canyon (25-5) prepares for the Texas playoffs.
“We’re hoping to make a run,” said Cronk, who took the Lady Eagles’ softball job three years ago after a short stint as a head baseball coach in Wichita Falls, Texas. “Honestly, I haven’t looked back. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve got a great group of kids to work with every day.
“It’s nice coming back here. Anytime you can come back and play in a facility like this, it’s good for our kids.”
Brandi Thomas, Clovis’ head softball coach, went to school at Eastern with Cronk before both became coaches at Clovis High.
“You know, Brian does a great job with those girls,” Thomas said. “They’re very disciplined and I’m happy to have them on our schedule. Brian and I go way back and it’s fun to compete against friends.”
Clovis (6-12) sported a lineup with a couple of changes from the Lady Cats’ unit that took the field in a district win over Hobbs two nights before as junior Charlotte Varney had the stomach flu and sophomore Cassie Nelson was trying to heal some bumps and bruises.
After a pair of shutout innings to start the game, Canyon broke into the scoring column with a run against Clovis starter Adrianna Aguilar in the third. Leadoff hitter Lauren Bressler reached on a single to center and eventually scored when Sabrae Prechre got a two-out hit.
Later, the Lady Eagles tallied another run in the fifth when Taryn Schenk drove in Prechre for a 2-0 lead.
Before Canyon blew the game open with two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings, Clovis had a good chance to take the lead in the third.
It was the only frame where the Lady Cats reached Nolan for a hit, but a bases-loaded situation with only one out ended without a run scored. Nolan induced Jasiman Dykes into a grounder, with shortstop Kirstie Patterson throwing to home plate for an out, and then got Clovis’ Brittany Mascarenas to pop up to end the threat.
In the sixth, Clovis did get a run thanks to two bases-on-balls issued by Nolan and a Canyon error. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Nolan walked the bases loaded before getting the next three Wildcats’ batters out to end the game.
Though Nolan did strike out nine Clovis hitters, Thomas focused on her players’ own inability to get the job done when runners were on base.
“Whenever you leave 10 runners on base, that’s unacceptable,” said Thomas, whose squad will resume its district slate with a single game at home on Tuesday against Carlsbad. “That means you’re not focusing on what you’re doing; you’re not mentally in the game at the plate.”
“That’s a problem we’ve struggled with all year. You could probably ask any of them and they’ll come up with some excuse. My excuse is that they’re not mentally tough enough.”
Canyon 6, Clovis 1
Canyon 001 012 2 — 6 13 1
Clovis 000 001 0 — 1 2 1
Ashley Nolan and Sabrae Prechre; Adrianna Aguilar and Kayla Merritt. W — Nolan. L — Aguilar. Top hitters — Canyon: Prechre 3-4, 3B, RBI; Taryn Schenk 3-4, RBI; Kaylee Crozier 2-4. Clovis: Nicole Anaya 1-2; Aguilar 1-2. Records — Canyon 25-5, Clovis 6-12.