FARMINGTON — Tyler Barker was one of the unquestioned leaders for Bloomfield High's baseball program over the last couple of seasons. But the recent Bloomfield graduate took the mound for the 4-Corners Clubsox and mowed down Bloomfield's batters en route to a 6-0 Clubsox win in Connie Mack City League play at Ricketts Park Tuesday night.
"We're coming off of a tournament, and he is the freshest arm and had the most rest, so he was the guy. Plus, we talked about it and he kind of wanted to throw against his old team," Clubsox coach Brett Alexander said of Barker. "I'm sure he faced all those guys in intrasquad stuff, so who better to throw against them than the guy who knows them best."
Bloomfield coach Frank DeHoyos said the game had a weird feeling to it as his players went against their friend and former teammate.
"Some of these guys have been in wars with that guy (Barker), as far as playing other teams and getting after it," DeHoyos said. "One month ago, we were in a battle with him and all of the sudden he's on the bump, and we're going against him. It was just kind of a weird feeling today. It was the first time I've ever been against him, and I didn't like it."
Barker threw 55 pitches over four complete innings, giving up just two hits to keep Bloomfield from gaining any momentum during the contest.
After starting the season in the bullpen, Barker recently moved into the starting rotation, but struggled with his control early on.
"We noticed a couple things with him so we started trying to clean some stuff up," Alexander said. "We talked with him a little bit about his mechanics, trying to get him to calm down a little sooner, and it's been working. When you have a lefthander who can spot pitches, it makes it tough on hitters."
While Barker kept Bloomfield's bats quiet, the Clubsox jumped out to an early lead, scoring two runs in the first inning, then two more in the second to make the score 4-0.
The Clubsox added runs in the third and fourth innings, but after that, their bats cooled.
"We've been in a funk the last two weeks. We'll get out to a lead then kind of coast like that," Alexander said. "A lot of these guys have been playing baseball since January, so these are kind of the dog days. We're trying to fight through that and find some more energy."
Whereas the Clubsox started hot, then slowed down, Bloomfield didn't show the fight needed to compete with one of the league's premier teams from the start.
"We couldn't muster anything. We came out real flat, and you saw it. Our youth showed, and we kind of decided we weren't going to play," DeHoyos said. "We've got a good set of baseball players and a good group of kids, but we've got to find a leader. You can be the best team and group of players out there, but if there's no leadership, it doesn't do you any good."
Along with the progress from Barker, the Clubsox got former Piedra Vista standout Zach Ahlgrim an at-bat in the top of the fourth inning.
The pinch hit made Ahlgrim — who tore his ACL during the high school wrestling season — eligible for the upcoming City Tournament, which begins July 6.
"He's getting closer. He's not 100 percent, but he's getting closer," Alexander said of Ahlgrim. "We'll take it slow with him and see where the doctors have him. Who knows, by the City Tournament, he could be that guy who comes off the bench, and who better than Zach Ahlgrim to come off the bench and pinch hit? We're taking it slow, and we may not even use him, but in the case that we can use him and we need him, now he's eligible."
Ahlgrim wasn't the only member of the Clubsox to garner attention at the plate Tuesday night.
Former Cobre High star and Eastern Arizona College commit Jordan Benfield, who safely reached on three of his four at-bats, showed the Clubsox coaching staff that he'll be a good addition to the team's lineup.
"He's proven that he can swing," Alexander said of Benfield. "One of the things about him was could he handle upper-level pitching? But working with him in the cages, he's got a good, sound swing. I think he'll help us a lot."