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FARMINGTON — The Storm rolls into Connie Mack City League play with a lot of youth and not much experience, but that’s just fine with the players and head coach Bryan Wardroup.

The team is made up primarily of Kirtland Central players, most of whom will enter their sophomore year in the fall and saw limited action for KC during the high school season. And that’s what makes this summer a key in the continued development and improvement of the KC baseball program.

“More or less, the summer is about continuing the growth that we had during the school season and about the small victories,” Wardroup said. “You look at the turning points in a game and that’s what we’ll talk about and focus on — don’t put your head down, and go back out there and make the plays.”

Part of the Storm’s young roster is the result of getting a late start to the season. The team registered late and wasn't listed on the league’s original schedule. Wardroup said that since he was late getting the team registered for City League, some of his high school players joined other clubs, opening the door for some younger players.

“We got in at the last minute, and since I was so late getting the team together, I ended up having three or four of my starters making commitments to play with other teams,” Wardroup said. “We’re getting the younger guys some good competition. We’re getting some of the guys on the mound and getting them some game experience now when it doesn’t necessarily hurt us, and when it will help us in (the high school) season.”

With such a young group of players, Wardroup is looking to a few players with varsity experience to step into a leadership role.

Among those players are incoming juniors Brock Beckstead and Cameron Pinkerton, who started most of the high school season at third base for KC, and incoming sophomore Shane Roanhorse. Wardroup said this summer will give the trio a chance to take more ownership of the team.

Also being asked to take on more responsibility is a familiar, but often antagonistic face for players from Kirtland with recent Shiprock High graduate Zander Dale joining the Storm for the summer.

“Having Zander playing with us, especially after what he did during the season with Shiprock, will help us,” Wardroup said. “One of my favorite things about him is how vocal he is. He’s willing to take on that leadership role. Even though he hasn’t played with us, I think he’s done a great job stepping in and being a leader.”

Dale, who served as the starting catcher for Shiprock and finished this past season with a .515 batting average, said the first couple of weeks of playing with his former rivals is going smoothly, and the fierceness of the KC-Shiprock rivalry isn't an issue.

“For me, it’s just been a lot of listening and paying attention to how all the different attitudes are and the flow of the team. It’s a lot of listening and trying to get experience playing with everyone,” Dale said. “There’s not too much (talk) about the rivalry. It’s just trying to get used to the teasing and joking about it. I think everyone is trying to get a feel for playing together, and we’re all cool with it.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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