Western continues to progress

Tommy Krier surprised his peers when he applied to become Western’s baseball coach ahead of the 2010 season.

A former Cimarron-Memorial assistant, Krier had just helped the 2009 Sunset Region champion Spartans reach the Class 4A state finals. He moved to a Warriors program that still hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2003 and has spent the past few years as a Southwest League doormat.

“We lost to Gorman at state, and then I took over Western. Everyone thought I was nuts,” Krier said. “They were like, ‘What are you thinking?’

“I just wanted to get a head start on head coaching, so I thought it was an opportunity. And I tell these kids the same thing — this is a great opportunity here at Western.”

The Warriors have been listening to their third-year coach.

Western was eliminated from the Blazer Spring Bash on Wednesday with an 11-1 loss to San Fernando (Calif.) in the semifinals of the Las Vegas High Championship Bracket.

Western wanted more than a 2-2 record and a semifinal exit from the tournament, but it wasn’t long ago that the Warriors reaching the semifinals of any tournament seemed almost absurd.

Western (5-13) has already equaled its win total from last year. The Warriors had a combined record of 12-80 from 2008 through 2011.

The five wins include a 3-2 stunner over Sierra Vista on March 26.

Josh Yocum, who Krier called the “heart and soul” of his team, was at the center of that win. The junior left-hander pitched a five-hitter and hit an RBI double to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Warriors’ biggest victory in years.

Yocum, who also plays center field and first base for the Warriors, said he sensed coming into the season that this season could be different.

“This is the best team that we’ve had,” said Yocum, who went 1-for-3 with a double against San Fernando. “All these kids have a lot of heart. We just need to work.”

Krier praised pitcher Daniel Buzzard for providing senior leadership, and with a strong core of juniors that includes Yocum, catcher Ryan Garbowski and shortstop Javier Ruiz, the Warriors hope to be even better next year.

“If I didn’t expect these guys to win, why would I coach?” Krier said. “We’re playing year-round now, we have a summer team. I expect these guys to win.”

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