Begay ready to improve on stellar sophmore season when he led the state in strikeouts

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BLOOMFIELD — The Shiprock baseball team has an ace at the top of the pitching rotation.

Dylan Begay broke onto the baseball scene last season and led class 4A in strikeouts, fanning 87 batters against 36 walks and held opponents to a .246 batting average in 53.1 innings pitched. And he was only a sophomore.

"Anytime we take the field and he's on the mound I really expect us to win. He pitches in all of our big games and he could get a scholarship after (his senior) year," Shiprock coach Alfred Baer said of Begay. "He's been playing with us since his eighth-grade year and he's only a junior, so I'm blessed to have him with us for another year."

The breakout season got Begay enough attention to earn a spot on the Pumpjacks' roster for the Connie Mack City League, and after a solid season he was picked up by Strike Zone for the Connie Mack World Series.

"I was so excited," Begay said. "It means a lot to me to get the opportunity to experience the world series and the chance to hang with the big leagues I guess you could say."

While the experience was eye opening for Begay, he said it was also motivational. Playing with guys on Strike Zone who are now on Division I rosters showed him how much harder he needs work to get to that level as a pitcher.

But Begay is more than a powerful arm on the mound and has the skill to change the game at the plate.

He finished last season with a .443 batting average and drove in 32 runs.

"He's a through and through ball player. Baseball is his true love and he's been playing since a young age," Baer said. "We have high expectations for him this year."

With all of the tools to be a great player already at his disposal, Begay is now working to be a better leader for the Chieftains.

Baer said Begay takes losses hard, which is OK because it shows how much he cares about the game, but he needs to find the balance of being a fierce competitor without letting the bad breaks affect his performance.

Begay said he's aware of how his reactions can affect the rest of the roster, and entering this season he's made it a point to develop his leadership skills and be a better role model for his teammates.

"I'm trying to be a better leader this year. I'm trying to lead the team and not let them down," Begay said. "I try to keep my head up and try not to let them see me down. I want to be a good role model for the team."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648. 

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