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’Topper baseball knocks off Academy in extras

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By The Staff

ALBUQUERQUE – The challenge for the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team heading into the final week-plus of its regular season is to remain viable in the District 2-5A race for second place.
Wednesday, Los Alamos cleared a big hurdle of that challenge.
The Hilltoppers came back from a run down late to the district-leading Albuquerque Academy Chargers at Marburger Field to force extra innings.
Then, in the top of the ninth, Los Alamos came up with three doubles to take a commanding lead and ultimately pull off the upset over the Chargers, 7-4.
Designated hitter Travis Gonzales looped a fly ball over the head of Academy right fielder Markus Parrish, driving in a pair of runs that would ultimately give the Hilltoppers the win in the top of the ninth. Third baseman Antonio Gonzales doubled in Travis Gonzales one batter later for insurance.
Instead of Los Alamos dropping another big 2-5A contest, as it did in its district opener March 29 after earning a big lead in extra innings, Hilltopper relief pitcher Rico Zerr came on to pick up the save with little trouble from Academy’s hitters.
With Wednesday’s win, Los Alamos (10-13 overall, 5-4 in 2-5A) have a fighting chance to come back from a late-season deficit to try to earn that No. 2 spot in the district race. Los Alamos will still need to win its final three game of the district season – those are very winnable games for the Hilltoppers – but, perhaps the tougher side of that equation, Los Alamos will have to hope the Del Norte Knights don’t manage more than one victory in their final four games.
Del Norte and Academy play a doubleheader Saturday. With a win in either game, the Chargers can clinch the 2-5A title.
Regardless of how the rest of the district season shakes out, the Hilltoppers cannot finish any higher than second place, as the Chargers own the season tiebreaker over the Hilltoppers.
The only hope for the Hilltoppers to make the 2017 postseason is to attain that runner-up spot in district, and even then, the team’s chances of earning an at-large invitation are iffy.
Heading into its game with Los Alamos, Academy’s Chargers had been undefeated in district play and had outscored the rest of 2-5A by a combined 94-19.
The Chargers have had an impressive showing at the plate during their district season, and after scoring runs in the second and third innings, looked like they might be on the verge of equaling that task against the Hilltoppers.
After that third inning, however, Los Alamos starting pitcher Jake Rutten settled in nicely. He set down the Chargers in order in the fifth inning, one inning after he pitched around a 1-out triple by Academy designated hitter Jon Saiz.
Academy (16-6 overall, 8-1 in 2-5A) hit the ball hard in the contest, but scored two of its four runs on Hilltopper defensive miscues. Saiz had a pair of triples Wednesday, the second coming after Parrish led off the sixth inning with a ground rule double.
Academy scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, immediately after the Hilltoppers took their first lead of the ballgame. Luis Bojorquez, who had an outstanding defense game at second base for Los Alamos, singled in two runs after Academy starter Conner Russell walked the bases full to open the inning.
In that decisive ninth inning, Hunter Swavely, who was instrumental in a big win Saturday over Del Norte, doubled to left-center to lead things off. After two straight outs, Rutten drew a walk, then Travis and Antonio Gonzales had their back-to-back doubles to give the Hilltoppers the three-run edge.
Rutten went eight innings to pick up the win, setting down Academy in order in the eighth and needing only four pitches to do so. He struck out eight batters along the way.