The Clovis High baseball team fulfilled half of the two goals that first-year coach Greg Hill had in mind for the Wildcats on Saturday.
But that first thing was a win and the ‘Cats got that by beating El Paso Bowie 11-8 in the seventh-place game of the Clovis Invitational at Bell Park.
The host team jumped out to a five-run lead after the first two innings and never trailed. But Clovis (1-2) also gave up four runs in each of the last two frames and that’s the part Hill wasn’t entirely thrilled about.
“We needed to go out and, first, win a ball game. And, second, we needed to make a statement,” Hill said. “We needed to win, but we just sat back and didn’t step on their necks like we needed to.
“But, hey, a win’s a win,” he added. “At the same time, if this is the way we’re going to win, against tougher ball teams we’re gonna struggle.”
Bowie (4-6) trailed 6-0 entering the fifth inning of the morning contest before the Bears rallied for four runs in the fifth.
Clovis countered with five more in the bottom of the fifth as an RBI triple from Jordan Hill, a run-scoring single by Emery Sierra and a lead-off hit by Parker Wood highlighted the frame.
Leading 11-4, the Wildcats seemed to have the game well in hand.
However, Bowie responded with four more runs in the top of the sixth — the last opportunity the Bears would have in the game that was played with a two-hour time limit. In fact, when Enrique Acosta came to bat with two outs, and two men on, he represented the tying run.
But Clovis reliever Matt Marez induced Acosta into a high pop to shortstop Jake Burrell.
Senior Brandon Gilliard, considered one of his team’s top pitchers by Hill, hurled four shutout innings before the Bears chased him in the fifth.
Gilliard, a lefthander, was still recovering from an injury to his left ankle that limited his ability to push off the rubber.
“He’s been out with a sprained ankle and this is his first time on the bump,” Hill said. “He’s impressive, because it was still a little bit tender. We wanted to keep his pitch count to around 50 and, when I went out to get him, he wasn’t real happy to see me.”
Gilliard had returned to pitching duty at least a week before his doctor thought would be possible.
“I wasn’t throwing the way I usually do. Couldn’t push off well, but I did the best I could for the team,” Gilliard said. “It was killing me not to be able to play. I couldn’t wait to get back in. When I did, I took advantage of it.”
Clovis will next be in action on Tuesday when the ‘Cats host Goddard in a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m.