Baseball: Hilltoppers close out Tigers early

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By The Staff

It took more than three weeks since the first scheduled game between the Los Alamos Hilltoppers and Taos Tigers for the two baseball teams to finally face off.

But the results were well worth the wait for the Hilltoppers.

Los Alamos swept an important pair of games Thursday at Bomber Field. Los Alamos took game one of Thursday’s doubleheader 14-1, then followed that up with an 11-1 victory in the nightcap.

Significantly, the Hilltoppers were also able to save their pitchers for what could well be a doubleheader that decides the District 2AAAA race Saturday against Bernalillo.

Los Alamos used five pitchers in the doubleheader, with only game one starter Jon Thoma throwing more than two innings.

Hilltopper manager Mike Gill said that while Thoma had to stay on the bump in game one a little longer than he was hoping, Thoma threw less than 60 pitches in his four innings and should be able to throw at least a couple of innings if need be Saturday.

Thoma earned the victory in game one, giving up just two hits and one earned run through his four innings, striking out four batters. Jack Russell, seeing his first time on the hill this season, struck out two batters in the fifth to close out the game.

The Hilltoppers erupted for nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to answer the Tigers’ only run of the game.

Hilltopper outfielder Eli Pulliam, who went a combined 7-for-7 in the two games, had a double and a single in the first game, scoring three times and knocking in two runs. Pulliam, the lead-off batter, followed that up with a nearly identical performance in game two, finishing with a double, triple, three runs scored and two runs driven in.

Los Alamos needed just five innings to stop Taos in the second game.

Gill divvied up the pitching chores between Zakk Walterscheid (two innings pitched, no runs allowed, no hits), Zach Mang (winning pitcher, two innings pitched, one earned run) and Ryan Schleft (inning pitched, no hits, no runs).

Offensively, Russell was 3-for-3 with a triple, a RBI and two stolen bases in game two. Walterscheid cracked a home run and drove in three runs in game two.

“There was good support from everywhere,” Gill said. “If one of our guys is having a down day, some is there picking him up. That’s the mark of a good team.”

In game one, Michael Helland drove in four runs, going 2-for-3 with a double in the opener.

The two wins Thursday were the fourth and fifth consecutive District 2AAAA victories for the Hilltoppers (9-10 overall, 5-1 in 2AAAA).

With its two losses, Taos (7-14 overall, 0-8 in 2AAAA) was officially eliminated from postseason competition in 2009.

Los Alamos has just one day, however, to prepare for district-leading Bernalillo (14-4, 7-0 in 2AAAA).

Bernalillo handed Los Alamos its only district loss to date, that coming in a wild 13-11 affair April 8 that ended on a questionable putout call in the final inning with Los Alamos trying to bounce back from a 13-8 deficit.

Although Los Alamos is nearly at full pitching strength heading in, Hilltopper second baseman Adam Eberhart injured his left hand diving into a base Thursday. While he finished out Thursday’s play, the extent of the injury is unclear heading into Saturday.