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Aztec baseball players Tyson Curley, left, and Tanner Moore pose for a photo in the dugout on Monday at Aztec s baseball field.
AZTEC — Farmington and Piedra Vista have long dominated the baseball scene in San Juan County and across the state of New Mexico in 4A, but this year's Aztec Tigers are ready to make a bit of noise of their own.
Led by a Division I talent on the mound in Tyson Curley and a lineup full of solid hitters such as Tanner Moore, the Tigers have raced out of the gates to a 7-2 start including a championship in their own tournament for the first time in several years.
"We are coming out ready to play this year. We are having a lot more fun and starting to play together," said Moore.
As seniors, Curley and Moore have been through several coaching changes and have suffered through losing seasons.
The Tigers went just 8-14 a year ago, but Curley and Moore both credited the sudden resurgence to the continuity the team has had in the coaching staff.
"We had three different coaches in three years. Now we have coaches who have stuck with us and that is helping us a lot to play better as a team," Moore said. "Different coaches always want different things from you. Now we have had the same coaches for a few years and it is becoming routine."
Curley said it has been important for his success to build a relationship with head coach Rick Quevedo and assistant coach Brett Alexander.
"It feels great having that relationship with the coaches and forming a bond with each other," Curley said.
Curley has started strong, going 2-0 with 30 strikeouts and an ERA around 3.15.
In the championship game of the Aztec tournament, Curley struck out 13 Moriarty hitters in just five innings of work.
"My goal is to strike every hitter out. That is what I aim for and it has always been my goal," said the hard-throwing lefty. "This year, I know if I can't do it my defense will make plays as well."
Saturday was the first game in recent memory the Aztec Tigers haven't committed an error in the field, giving the pitching staff a big boost in confidence.
"We have such a better defense this year. We started the year with some errors, but gradually we are coming together as a team and improving," Curley said.
Moore catches for Curley and Dylan Stinson when they get the ball, but Moore has seen his own success this year on the mound as a pitcher.
"I like to play wherever the coaches want me to play," Moore said. "Where I can help is where I want to be."
Moore is hitting .575 this year with seven doubles, four triples, three home runs and 30 RBIs.
He has been a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup for Aztec, but he knows all of the Tigers hitters have improved greatly from year to year.
"We are doing a much better workout schedule with baseball this year. We had a lot better preseason," he said. "Our bats are a lot stronger than they have been in the past. The last few games, every one in the lineup has gotten a hit. It helps a lot when there isn't a hole in your lineup."
Aztec played Farmington this year in the Scoprion Invite semifinals, losing a 6-4 game after jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Tigers were disappointed with the loss, but were encouraged knowing they played the Scorps as close as they have in this group of seniors' careers.
"We went out pretty nervous against Farmington. They are a big baseball school. We went up there and our first batter got a hit and every body jumped on the fence and got super excited and it just kept going," Moore said. "With us playing FHS and getting beat by just a little bit and then FHS getting beat by Piedra Vista by just a little bit in that tournament, I think we should all be pretty close and it should be a good district season."
Curley could be the great equalizer when it comes to playing FHS or three-time defending state champion PV, and the Tigers are excited to see what their ace can do this year come district season.
"If Tyson is pitching as well as he has been, I think we can play with anybody in the state," Moore said.
Curley said his goal is to keep his team's confidence high all season.
"I really try to push my team and have confidence in them. I want to get their mindset right as much as I can," he said. "I think we are one of the most talented teams in the state. We haven't had a winning season in awhile, but this year I believe we can take it all the way."
Almost more importantly for the Aztec seniors is to instill a winning attitude in the younger players because they want to see Tiger baseball get better and better after they graduate.
"I try to talk to the underclassman and let the know when we are gone they will have to step up and replace us," Curley said.
Curley has had several Division I recruiting trips.
After verbally committing to Texas Tech his junior season, Curley now said he is leaning toward the University of New Mexico after visiting last month.
"I honestly think I will attend UNM. They have recruited me real well," Curley said. "It is going to be a really good scholarship. It might even be better than what Texas Tech is offering. I talked to Coach (Ray) Brimingham and he said once they see New Mexico talent, really good talent, they want to jump on it. It just feels good. It is home and right down the road so all my family can come watch."

10 Questions with Tyson Curley
What is your favorite pregame meal?
• Protein bars
What is your walk-up music before you hit?
• Work by Meek Mill
Who is your favorite athlete and why?
• Floyd Mayweather because of his hard work and will to win.
What is your favorite and least favorite class this year?
• My favorite is English, and my least favorite is pre-calculus.
What is your biggest fear?
• Not being able to play baseball.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
• To turn into the Hulk and be unstoppable.
Do you have any hidden talents?
• I can move my (pectoral muscles).
Who is the toughest athlete you ever competed against?
• Jorge Venegas
What is your dream car?
• A Lamborghini
What are your plans after graduating from high school?
• Go to college to play baseball.

10 Questions with Tanner Moore
What is your favorite pregame meal?
• Fajitas
What is your walk-up music before you hit?
• Copperhead Road by Steve Earle
What would be your dream vacation?
• Abu Dhabi
What is your favorite and least favorite class this year?
• Government is my favorite because it is interesting to me. My least favorite is Trigonometry.
What is your biggest fear?
• Heights
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
• To be the fastest man ever.
Do you have any hidden talents?
• I am an outdoorsman and love hunting.
Who is the toughest athlete you ever competed against?
• Shilo McCall or Jake McCasland.
What is your dream car?
• A 2013 GMC 2500 Denali HD
What are your plans after graduating from high school?
• Going further in school.

John Livingston may be reached at jlivingston@daily-times.com or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.