FARMINGTON — In its second go-round as a Connie Mack City League participant, the Halos baseball team's top goal is the same as it was last year — improve its players over the summer.
Coached by Pedro Tom, the Halos got their first taste of City League action last year, and the game results were mostly sour, as they earned just one win. But Tom said as long as his players are making progress and playing baseball the right way, he's not overly concerned with their win/loss record.
"We want to keep playing more and more games together to keep developing some of these players so they're ready for next year," Tom said.
There is a lot of youth on Tom's lineup card this summer with only five seniors and two recently graduated players on the team.
The Halos roster includes three current members of Shiprock High School's squad and another former player — Josh Begay — who graduated this month. Tom, who said he helps out the Chieftains' varsity team as much as he can, is working to help those Shiprock players get better and fill the void opened by eight outgoing seniors from Shiprock's 20-7 season in 2016.
Cameron Begay, Chance Harvey and Aarwin Chee are three of those Chieftains looking to make strides over the next two months. Navajo Prep's Geremiah Goldtooth and Trevor Smith, as well as players from Chinle and Many Farms High School in Arizona, make up the rest of the team.
Chee, who was roughed up during the Halos' 8-0 loss to the Pumpjacks on Friday, said he's looking to continue what he believed to be an upward trend as a sophomore pitcher for the Chieftains. Tom said he thought Chee settled down and helped keep Friday's game from being even more lopsided.
"I'm just trying to hit my spots and get people out with my fastball," Chee said. "I'm trying to keep getting better as a pitcher. I know that's where (Shiprock) will need me next year."
Tom said that Begay, Chee, Smith and Many Farms' Brian Jones will be his top pitchers, but he actually believes his team's main strength will be its hitting.
"We're going to be strong there in the batter's box as long as we're aggressive with the sticks," Tom said. "That's the only way you're going to score, is hitting the ball well. Most of our players are position players, so they're used to hitting and playing on defense, also."
Chinle senior Brandon Brown will once again be at the top of the Halos' batting order, and Tom expects him to be the offense's igniter. Brown was away from the team for the Pumpjacks game, so Many Farms' Dion Kinlicheene led off, a spot the senior feels comfortable in.
"I lead off at my school, so I know what I have to do there — slap the ball, line it, just get hits," Kinlicheene said.
Though he wasn't a part of the team last year, Kinlicheene said he's familiar with more than half of the team's players, having played with and against them in Arizona, and said he just wants more wins this season.
Since half the roster is from out of state, Tom said one of the biggest struggles has been getting the team together for full practices. He tends to look at the glass half full when it comes to that struggle, saying his out-of-state players have shown a lot of dedication to the Halos.
"The biggest challenge is we can't practice regularly as a team. We just come together most of the time during the games," Tom said. "But still, it says a lot of them because they're making that sacrifice to make it out here and play when they do."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.