Buoyed by an influx of proven winners from the two-defending state champion basketball team, Magdalena baseball is off to a strong start in an effort to win the program’s second blue trophy.

It has been a long time since the Steers celebrated that 1990 title, but coach Kyl Candelaria likes the looks of this year’s squad that is coming off a 14-4, 20-12 doubleheader sweep of Melrose on Friday.

“We’re actually hitting the ball really well,” he said. “Our bats are pretty hot one through nine. We’re struggling a bit on defense with some errors but it’s early in the season and we still have some things we need to button down.”

In the opener against Melrose, Josh Baca went 3-3, Kaleb Castañon, Jacob Burleson and Joseph Zamora each hit triples, while Burleson added three RBI as the game ended after five innings on the mercy rule.

The team went crazy on the base paths, with 14 successful steals in as many attempts, with Baca snagging four and D’Shaun Vinyard and Castañon three each.

“I like the direction the team is heading,” Candelaria said. “I think we’re going to do well.”

Baca also was strong on the mound, coming within an out of a complete game, allowing just four hits and two earned runs while striking out five.

In Game 2, Burleson and Daniel Martinez each went 4-5 and each scored four runs, while Martinez added three RBI. Burleson and Baca each contributed four more steals as the team went a ridiculous 20-20 on steal attempts.

“We lead the state almost every year in stolen bases in any class since I’ve taken over,” Candelaria said. “We look to steal a lot of bags. All the coaches know this and prepare, but that’s what we know.”

Anybody who has watched the Steers on the basketball court, however, know just how quickly they can get up and down the floor, so that they would tear up the base paths as well is not a big surprise.

As a matter of fact, Candelaria said, with seven members of the basketball team also playing baseball, there is significantly high expectations for the group.

“I expect that we should win our district this year and our goal is a state championship,” he said. “They’ve been playing together since T-Ball. They’ve been successful coming through the Socorro Little League and they’ve won back to back state championships in basketball so there’s that momentum into the baseball season.”

The team reached the semifinals last season, but is ready to go farther with eight of nine starters back.

And nothing beats championship experience, the coach said.

“They know how to win,” Candelaria said. “They know how to play in hard situations. They flat out don’t like to lose and will do whatever it takes to win.”

As evidenced by five different Steers taking the hill in the second game against Melrose, the pitching staff is still a work in progress, but Candelaria feels confident in having six or seven guys that can get the job done on any given day.

“That’s a lot for Class 1A,” he said. “Most of my guys have pitching experience. The blessing about that is when one guy gets in trouble, we don’t have to ride it out. We have somebody that can step in and take control. We don’t have to fight that battle of not being able to throw strikes. We can look to the next guy.”

Glen Rosales for El Defensor Chieftain