New-look ClubSox hope to repeat as champs
Piedra Vista players make up the team's core
FARMINGTON — The hosts of last year's Connie Mack World Series won't have any familiar faces on the roster, but the 4-Corners ClubSox still figure to be in the hunt for a second straight City League championship.
"We've got some work to do, some jelling to do at a couple of tournaments we've got coming up, but we're excited," ClubSox coach Brycen Campbell said. "There's no doubt we have a chance."
Campbell, 22, recently finished his first season as a student assistant coach for the New Mexico State University baseball team. He played in the CMWS twice as a member of Strike Zone during its five-year hosting streak — one that was snapped by the ClubSox last year — so Campbell knows what it takes to escape the City Tournament on top.
He also knows what it feels like, as a defending champ, to get other teams' best effort.
"You can tell whenever we show up, the other team is looking to give us their best shot," Campbell said. "Luckily, I think since none of the guys were on this team last year, they don't really feel any pressure. So that's good. I don't have to say too much to them when it comes to that."
While they won't be returning any players from last year's championship squad, the ClubSox still bring plenty of experience to the City League, as all but three members of the team have graduated high school. Those three, Piedra Vista's Andrew Caliendo, Durango, Colo.'s Gavin Mestas and Cleveland's Jason Herrera, are expected to contribute heavily.
A lot of the ClubSox's success, or lack thereof, will ride on how well their PV players perform, as the roster features five current and former Panthers. Caliendo and PV grads Kyle DeWees, Orlan Warren, Jeremy Griffith and Casey Simmons will look to build on the bond they formed over the past few high school seasons.
Campbell said Mike McGaha, coach of the Panthers and the Rivercats, put the team together and asked Campbell to coach it.
DeWees said he thinks the PV connection can only help the ClubSox.
"We're not shy around each other, and we're comfortable speaking our minds to each other and things like that," DeWees said.
Caliendo will handle catching duties, while DeWees will man center field on most days. Campbell said he's looking for big things from them.
"Andrew is one of the better players in the state, probably," Campbell said. "Kyle's going to need to play a big role for us, too. Those two both can do a lot of good things out on the field."
Recent grads of La Cueva, St. Pius X, Miyamura and Bayfield, Colo., fill out the rest of the roster. Campbell, who is in the midst of his first baseball head coaching gig, said his team doesn't have a big name or NCAA Division I signee to lean on, so his players have to play together in order to offset that.
"Our whole team is going to have to contribute," he said. "We're not a very high-powered team as far as having that one kid that can put the team on his back, so everyone's going to need to step up."
According to Campbell, Bayfield's Taed Heydinger is one of the go-to starting pitchers on the ClubSox staff. Heydinger didn't pitch much as a senior for the Wolverines, but when he did, he was sharp, registering a 1.33 earned-run average over eight appearances, and striking out 36 batters in just 26 1/3 innings.
DeWees said he feels like the pitching is going to be there for the ClubSox, and once the hitting comes around, he expects the team to really start rolling.
"We've been up and down at the plate, but I'm not worried about that," DeWees said. "It's good to learn from coach Campbell, and pick up what he's been bringing us from New Mexico State. So when we get our bats going, we'll be pretty scary, I think."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.