Flat Bill's experience at City Tournament will benefit Aztec

Summer league seasoning could be just what Tigers needed

Matt Hollinshead
The Daily TImes
Flat Bills hitter Gabe Valdez rips a double against Strike Zone in the fourth round of the Connie Mack City Tournament Thursday at Farmington Sports Complex.

FARMINGTON — Some of Aztec baseball’s returning players have sought an avenue to help them better control their emotions in tough situations as they look ahead to next spring.

They may have found that outlet by helping their Flat Bill team fight to stay alive at this week’s Connie Mack City Tournament.

Flat Bill lost its opening game Monday against 4-C Gamboa, but kept battling — all the way to Thursday’s extra-inning slugfest with Strike Zone.

Despite losing 8-7 in 10 innings and ending their tournament run, players remembered how they even reached that point. And they look to reflect on games like the one they played Thursday when such contests arise in the spring during the prep season.

Despite going 18-10 in 2017, the Tigers had a few too many games when they couldn’t keep their composure at crucial times.

Flat Bill’s summer tournaments like this week’s were designed to help players keep emotions in line more often in 2018, and it proved to be a good step.

The Flat Bills' Trey Griffin fires a strike against Strike Zone in the fourth round of the Connie Mack City Tournament Thursday at Farmington Sports Complex. Strike Zone won, 8-7 in 10 innings.

“Any time you get in a one-run ball game or extra innings, that’s going to help you. If we learn and grow from (mistakes), then that puts us in a better place,” said Flat Bill coach Wes Leplatt, who will enter his third season with Aztec in 2018. “We have to respond with our emotions. Staying within ourselves, we have to work on that.”

It also enabled them to keep building chemistry with each other.

Five of the nine players in the Flat Bill lineup Thursday will be back for Aztec in 2018, as will a couple of key reserves.

Flat Bill second baseman Derek Jung, who will enter his junior year with the Tigers in 2018, said the returning group worked on decreasing bad attitudes that may come up in games and improving mental toughness.

“If you make an error, just keep your head up, just focus on the next play and what’s in front of you,” said Jung. “Games like (Thursday) help us a lot.”

Leplatt said Flat Bill struggled with its baserunning this week, which is something he hopes his Aztec squad will work on entering 2018, but he did note improvements in pressure situations.

Leplatt pointed to a two-run double in the top of the eighth inning Thursday by pinch hitter Karson Adcock, who will also be back for Aztec in 2018. Adcock's big hit extended Flat Bill’s lead to 6-3 during the eighth inning.

The Aztec contingent helped guide Flat Bill to one of the final six spots in the City Tournament. Flat Bill’s tournament run ended earlier than the players wanted, but Leplatt said playing for something like the tournament title will benefit the returning Tiger players next season.

“(This week’s) a step in the right direction, so we’ll see,” Leplatt said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.