Continuity works in the Fuel's favor
Much of the Fuel's roster has played together for eight years
FARMINGTON — What it lacks in age and experience, the Fuel baseball team will look to make up for in chemistry and continuity.
One of the most decorated amateur baseball teams in the state, the Fuel includes many athletes who have played together since they were 7 years old. And they've done it under coach Kim Carpenter.
The team heads into the summer riding a wave of momentum after having just won the Mickey Mantle City Championship.
Carpenter said his team — consisting of 10 15-year-old players and three 16 year olds — can compete against the more experienced squads this summer in the Connie Mack City League.
"The one thing about this group is, you better throw somebody at us, because if you don't, we'll sneak up on teams," Carpenter said. "We're a good hitting ball club."
Six of the 13 players on the Fuel have not played high school baseball. The team is made up of all Farmington High School students, with the exception of Piedra Vista's Jarrett Graham, who hasn't played baseball himself in more than a year.
Graham, who pitched in the Fuel's 15-13 loss to the Pumpjacks today, reinforced Carpenter's words, saying he believes the Fuel can score runs against any pitching staff.
"Even against 18 year olds, we put up 17 runs against Strike Zone," Graham said. "Consistently, we're always going to be a really good hitting team."
On most days, Graham will find himself in the middle of the Fuel batting order, along with FHS junior Dominic Hines, who will primarily catch and pitch. Shortstop Danny Carpenter, third baseman Isaiah Jaramillo and first baseman Ian Kee are a few others who can do damage with the bat.
Hines said he's having fun playing against players he usually shares a dugout with, as a lot of his FHS teammates are spread out among other City League teams.
"It's rough playing against your own teammates, but it's fun at the same time going back and forth with each other," Hines said. "They're not your teammates anymore whenever they have different uniforms on."
The Fuel had the Pumpjacks — made up mainly of 17 and 18 year olds — on the ropes during today's back-and-forth game, and even held a late lead. But errors and unforced mistakes allowed the Pumpjacks to regain the lead for good.
Carpenter said he hopes his youthful team can clean up some of those miscues and learn from tough losses like this going forward.
"The thing about it is, and what I've told these guys is, you can't give a great white shark a second chance," Carpenter said. "(The Fuel) has won seven city championships. We've been to more AABC World Series than any other program in this city. So we do a good job, but we're young, so that's what we're here for, is to get 45-50 games in this summer and get experience, and keep working hard."
The Fuel did not compete in the City League last year, and Carpenter did not coach. But they all saw what a young, hungry team like the Bayfield 14ers out of Colorado were capable of, and they think they have a chance to go down a similar path. Hines said he and his teammates just have to knock off some of the sloppy play.
"When we hit our stride, I think that we're going to make it really far," Hines said. "Not only with getting experience, but we'll win more games whenever we clean it up with the defense. We have the bats to do it, and we have the team to do it, but we gotta put it altogether."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.