FARMINGTON – The high school baseball season is over, but three local Class 4A seniors, and another from 5A, will get to represent their schools one last time in this year's North/South All-Star baseball games.
Kirtland Central starters Keishaun Aspaas and Randon Blindman, along with Bloomfield's Chauncey White, were selected to the A/4A North All-Star team, which plays its three games against the South at the Rio Rancho Baseball Fields June 10-11.
Piedra Vista's Orlan Warren made the 5A/6A North roster and will play the three-game series June 10-11 at Apodaca Park in Las Cruces.
Roster spots for the games are reserved for seniors and decided by a selection committee of coaches.
Second-year KC coach Bryan Wardroup said he thinks the selections mean more than Aspaas and Blindman realize.
"When I announced it to these kids at our baseball banquet, it was almost like they didn't understand how big of an honor that it was," Wardroup said. "I kind of had to explain to them that A/4A gets 20 kids combined, so we had two of the 20 best players in the state."
After missing his entire junior season due to a knee injury suffered in football, Aspaas returned in 2016 as KC's leadoff hitter and didn't miss a beat, compiling team highs in runs and hits (27 each) and batting .450, which was tops on the team for players with more than 25 plate appearances. From his second base position, he boasted an .898 fielding percentage.
The Broncos won eight more games in 2016 than they did the year before, and Wardroup said he believes there's a direct correlation between Aspaas' return and the increase in wins.
"It just meant so much to get him back. I can't tell you how many nine-, 10-, 11-pitch at-bats he had to lead off a ballgame," Wardroup said. "That would not only get opposing pitchers' pitch count up, it gave everyone else a chance to see what that guy was throwing."
Blindman served as KC's ace starting pitcher and cleanup hitter. He got the nod even though he won just one game and registered a 3.98 earned run average.
Wardroup, who was the District 1-4A representative at the selection meeting, said he vouched for Blindman to make the team because he thought top-notch competition inflated the pitcher's stats.
"I would never take anything away from kids at the A or 2A levels with amazing 11-1 records and 1.11 ERAs and stuff like that, but we had Randon go out and pitch against Aztec and Robertson and Taos," Wardroup said. "I didn't start him against cake teams because I took those opportunities to give other guys some starts. So statistically, I didn't put him in good situations."
Blindman was tied for second on the team in hits behind Aspaas with 24 and constantly drove in runs with games on the line, according to Wardroup.
Bloomfield's White got better as the season went on, establishing himself as the unquestioned ace on the mound for the reigning district champions.
"Chauncey matured so much since his junior season last year. He just put in a ton of time and worked his tail off," Bobcats coach Frank DeHoyos said. "Now that the season's over, I'm just really happy to see him reap some of the rewards that we know he deserves."
White, who patrolled center field on the days he didn't pitch, went 10-2 for the Bobcats during the season, striking out 48 batters in just 45 2/3 innings of work.
At the 5A/6A level, Piedra Vista’s Orlan Warren was the only player from San Juan County selected to the all-star game.
“Traditionally, it was always a big thing to be selected to that game, and currently, with the increased involvement in baseball across the state, it seems like it’s harder and harder to get one of those roster spots,” PV head coach Mike McGaha said. “He earned it.”
McGaha said that at the coaches’ selection meeting for the all-star game, “it was a pretty unanimous decision” for Warren to get a roster spot.
Warren primarily served as a pitcher for the Panthers, but also saw time at first base during the season after injuries began to take a toll on the team. He made 11 appearances on the bump for PV, compiling a record of 5-2 with an ERA around 1.3. And he came through when the Panthers needed him most.
He came on in relief in the final regular-season game to earn the win over rival Farmington and secure the District 1-5A title for PV. And against Artesia in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, he threw 54 pitches in five innings of work to get the win.
“What he brought wasn’t a 90 mph arm, but what he brought to the table was a 90 mph heart. When he gets on the mound, he’s not going to leave any stone unturned. If he can find a way to win, he’s going to,” McGaha said. “If I was going to say one thing about Orlan Warren, when he gets out there, he’s going to compete.”
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.