Baseball: Home run derby to open tournament

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By Mike Cote

The state Juniors All-Star Little League tournament is adopting at least one aspect of Major League Baseball’s All-Star fiesta this year.

To kick off the state tournament, which will be played at Bomber Field and Senior Field on North Mesa starting Friday, two players from each of the nine squads will be selected to take part in a home run derby.

That derby will precede the first two games of the tournament, one of which will pit the Los Alamos Junior All-Stars against Raton.

Friday’s home run derby will start at 5 p.m., with the Los Alamos-Raton game and a game against Westgate and Alamogordo Rotary starting at 6:30 p.m.

The Los Alamos All-Stars rolled to a win in the District 1 tournament, played in White Rock earlier this month. Los Alamos topped Pojoaque to clinch the district title and a spot in the state tournament.

Austin Aslin, who pitched brilliantly in the District 1 final, is scheduled to take the mound for Friday’s opener. After that, however, the Los Alamos rotation gets a little muddy.

Michael Young, Los Alamos’ second starter, has a strained right knee and will probably be unable to pitch throughout the tournament.

Young may start at shortstop Friday, however, because his bat is one of the most valuable on the team.

However, Young, a right-handed hitter, has struggled to get his weight shifted properly because of his bad knee. Young did switch-hit earlier in his career and has been taking batting practice left-handed.

Los Alamos coach Jamie Aslin said Young has been hitting left-handed in batting practice very well.

With the pitching staff, however, Los Alamos is hoping Austin Aslin can chew up a lot of innings Friday and that it gets the win.

“If we win our first game, we’ll get a break until Sunday,” coach Aslin said. “That’ll put us in a position to where our pitching might get us to where it needs to get us.”

Should Los Alamos or any other team drop into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament early, it will have to play as many as seven elimination games in seven days to have a chance at the state title.

That’s a tall order for any team, even those whose pitchers are all healthy.

Los Alamos and first-round opponent Raton have a history. In 2007, the two teams met in the first round of state. Los Alamos had the bases loaded, two out and the top of its order up late in the game but couldn’t score and Raton took a 1-run decision.

This is the first time Los Alamos has played host to a state Little League tournament at any level.