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FARMINGTON – In the thin, desert air of Farmington, Phil Sikes spent a few days absorbing what it’s like to face tougher competition at a higher altitude.

As a member of the Texas Stix, Sikes pushed and grinded against some stout ball clubs playing at 5,400 feet in the Connie Mack World Series. Sikes, who committed to playing at 5,300 feet at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, now has a head start acclimating to that next level — and the climate.

“It’s definitely different from Texas, and I’m getting used to it. I’m liking it down here. I’m think I’m going to take advantage of the altitude, for sure,” said Sikes, an outfielder/pitcher from Paris High School outside the Dallas area. “We’re playing the best of the best. I feel like it’s going to get me prepared.”

The 6-foot-2 Sikes, who graduated this past spring, initially had his concerns about playing at higher altitude, particularly as a pitcher. And he was quick to point out something that happened in the Texas Stix’s pool play game Saturday against D-BAT 18 as a prime example.

“You leave the ball down the middle, they’ll hit it out like it’s nothing,” Sikes said. “You can’t leave anything over the heart of the plate. You’ve got to hit your spots.”

Pitching-wise, Sikes admits he can improve a bit more on hitting his spots.

Hitting-wise, Sikes said he’s able to “use the whole field” targeting different gaps. Going forward, however, Sikes said he wants to take advantage of the elevation helping him more with hitting the ball deeper.

“This is the first year I’ve been able to have him, and he’s done an outstanding job. Being a two-way guy, he’s got some double duty that he’s got to pull,” said Texas Stix coach Matt Young.

Young could go on and on about what Sikes will bring to the table on offense for the Lobos.

“He’s done a great job coming up with big hits, hustling down to first, doing the little things that are going to make you better baseball player,” Young said. “He works counts, he’s aggressive when he needs to be, he takes the extra base, he runs hard, he’s got some pop, he hits for average. He does everything you want in an offensive player.”

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

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