Many Farms, Red Mesa struggle with realignment

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

RED MESA, Ariz., April 26, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Red Mesa's Elijah Lee aims for the strike zone Friday against Many Farms.

BOTTOM: Many Farms Lobo Damian James fires the ball against Red Mesa Friday in Red Mesa.

To break a five-game losing streak the Many Farms baseball team had to look no further than Kendrick Etsitty.

In four innings of work, the sophomore right-hander faced 18 batters and struck out 10.

Naturally, he didn't do all the work as the Lobos pounded out a dozen hits over Red Mesa last Friday afternoon to pick up a much-needed 11-1 win in the opening game of their doubleheader.

"We came up with a strong defense," said Many Farms coach John Willie of the first game. "Our pitching was there and the team backed him up."

Many Farms assistant coach Sheldon Dick went on to say that with each delivery, Etsitty became more confident. Most of his pitches landed inside catcher Colby Dalton's glove as Red Mesa struggled to catch up with him.

"After his first couple of throws he just got better," Dick said. "He basically pitched a lot of fast balls down the middle."

At the plate Etsitty was just as efficient as he led the team with three hits, which included a two-run double.

The biggest hit, however, came from Ian Tom as he cleared the bases with a three-run homer. Tom finished the game by going 2-for-4 with four RBIs while Sheldon Gorman added a single and a double.

"This was the first time the kids were having fun," Willie said, noting that his team struggled mightily against the likes of Chinle, Ganado and Window Rock - all former 3A teams - under Arizona's realignment of conferences.

"It's been real tough because we've played a lot of big schools," he said. "I don't think it's fair because we have a young team. But as a coach I just tell them to be consistent every game."

Due to the realignment, Red Mesa was put in the same position as Many Farms and because of the geographical scheduling the Redskins had to play up as they entered Tuesday's doubleheader with Rock Point with a 0-14 record.

Earlier this year, the Redskins played both Monument Valley and Chinle and, needless to say, those encounters were not pretty.

"It's hard to keep them motivated, but eventually a win will come our way," said first-year assistant coach Hobie Blackhorn. "The important thing is the kids just have fun."

Blackhorn was filling in for head coach Uryan Shorty, who was in Boston for a school function last week.

Unlike his counterpart, Blackhorn said his team is still learning the ropes and for much of the season they have stressed fundamentals.

"To play baseball competitively you need to have those basic skills down," he said.

Blackhorn said his team has come a long way since their first game and in last Friday's game he cited several areas where his team has improved.

"I think the kids have improved the most in fielding the ball," he said. "We were getting the ball into the glove and making those stops."

The Red Mesa coach said he wasn't sure what to expect offensively against Many Farms, but he sensed his players were ready to take on the challenge.

"A lot of these kids couldn't attempt to swing at the ball," he said. "But they were seeing the ball and their batting improved greatly."

That was more apparent in the second game of the doubleheader as Red Mesa gave Many Farms an early scare by plating four runs at the start of the game.

According to Dick, his club committed multiple errors in that second game before they righted their ship and completed the sweep with a 23-7 win.

With that the Lobos improved to 7-9 for the year and would have played Hopi on Tuesday in a doubleheader for its final game of the season. At press time, no scores were reported.

"The talent is there but once we start making errors they get down on themselves," Dick said. "The kids have to learn how to overcome those (miscues) because it's hard to get them going again."

And with only one senior on the team, he's hoping for brighter things next season.

"They all know how to play the game," he said, "so next year I think we'll be more competitive."

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