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Baseball: Hilltoppers come up big in last at-bat to beat the Spartans

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By The Staff

Heading into Wednesday’s District 2AAAA contest, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team was looking for a spark.

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It found that spark with its last at-bat.

Down to its last out of the ballgame against the Bernalillo Spartans, Los Alamos center fielder Ryan Schleft belted a double down the left field line to drive in three runs and give his team a 9-8 victory in an important district contest Wednesday at Bomber Field.

Schleft’s game-winning hit, coming off a 3-1 count, brought Jordan Sandoval, Thomas Russell and Zeke Zumbro around.

“We needed it,” Los Alamos manager Mike Gill said. “Not just, obviously, for the district standings, but for a confidence boost. We were a little down after the Academy game, so that win helped in for more than just the standings.”

Following Los Alamos’ district-opening win over Taos last week, Los Alamos was thumped by Albuquerque Academy’s Chargers 22-12 Saturday. Gill said the team got down on itself following that contest and needed something to regain some confidence.

Los Alamos trailed for much of Wednesday’s contest against Bernalillo (8-6-1 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA). Bernalillo scored two runs in the top of the second and five more in the top of the third against starting pitcher Austin Aslin.

But Los Alamos reliever Lukas Coker, who has been very effective entering during the middle innings, a trend he started late last season, held the Spartans to just one run over the next four innings to earn the victory.

In the seventh, first baseman Scott Berkebile led off with a single, then was driven home two batters later by Sandoval’s double to right-center.

The next batter, Russell, reached on an error, then Zumbro was hit by a pitch, bringing up Schleft at the top of the order.

Berkebile finished the game going 2-for-4 with a double for Los Alamos (3-10 overall, 2-0 in 2AAAA), while Aslin was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and scored a run.

For Bernalillo, Dillon Darnell went 3-for-4 with a first inning home run and a third inning, two-run double.

Los Alamos and Bernalillo played earlier this season, meeting in a nondistrict contest at the St. Pius X Invitational. Bernalillo won that game 9-8 but that game doesn’t figure into the district standings.

As wins go, Gill said they aren’t too many bigger than Los Alamos’ win Wednesday, “especially winning at home.

“You need to win at home,” he said. “It really hurts when you drop that single game at home, then you’ve got to go play a doubleheader at their place.”

Los Alamos hosts a critical doubleheader Saturday against the Española Valley Sundevils, one of the three teams — along with the Hilltoppers and Spartans — which could make a serious run for the district title in 2010.