Baseball: LA knocked out by Espanola, 11-8

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE – A long grueling trip through the loser’s bracket of the District 1 tournament finally proved to be too much for the Los Alamos Little League 11-12 All-Stars.

Los Alamos was sluggish early in its elimination game Wednesday and never could catch the Española Valley All-Stars, falling 11-8. The District 1 tournament is being played at Alto Park.

Española Valley, the team that knocked Los Alamos’ All-Stars into the loser’s bracket to begin with, now moves on to play the White Rock All-Stars tonight. White Rock can close out the tournament and a trip to the state Little League tournament with either a win tonight or a win Friday.

After its first round loss to Española Valley Saturday, Los Alamos had to play five games in five nights to have a chance to get to the finals. While Los Alamos picked up three impressive wins in a row, over Santa Fe Metro, Pecos and Santa Fe American, Española Valley’s 6-1 lead after 2-1/2 innings was too big a hump to get over.

“Life in the loser’s bracket is tough,” Los Alamos manager Glen Pappas said. “We might have been a little out of gas...and with the pitching rules being what they are, it makes it extra tough. I give my team a lot of credit. Some of these guys are nursing injuries, they’ve got some bumps and bruises, but for 11- and 12-year-olds to play through that says a lot about the kids on this team.”

Española Valley, which was knocked into the loser’s bracket Tuesday night, stayed within striking distance of White Rock for most of the contest, but lost 7-2 and had to face Los Alamos for the right to go to the tournament finals.

The game looked all but over in the top of the sixth with Española Valley getting a RBI double from Marcos Trujillo and immediately following that up with a RBI triple by Chris Martinez with nobody out, but Martinez was thrown out at the plate trying to tag up on a shallow fly ball to right field.

That play gave the Los Alamos All-Stars new life. Los Alamos threatened in the bottom of the inning, but could only manage one run, that coming on a single by Koby Leeches to drive in Trevor Pacheco.

Los Alamos loaded the bases with two outs but couldn’t get the hit it needed to extend the contest.

Following Wednesday’s loss, shortstop Raul Roybal said the team’s run in the bottom half of the tournament was, if nothing else, a good way to finish off.

“We felt good that we made it this far, at least,” Roybal said. “We were hoping to make it to state like we have (in) the past.”

Roybal relieved starting pitcher Danny Finn in the top of the fourth after Finn used his league-mandated amount of allotted pitches. Finn struck out five batters in 3-1/3.

Española Valley scored twice in the first inning and four times in the third to take a five-run edge – Los Alamos scored a run in the bottom of the second.

But Los Alamos came back to close the gap with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third and four more in the bottom of the fourth. Los Alamos took advantage of two Española Valley errors in the third inning and two more in the fourth to make it an 8-7 ballgame.

McKenzie Logan had a single to start the fourth inning rally. Two batters later, following an Española Valley pitching change, William Steinkamp singled to drive in Finn, who walked earlier in the inning.

Pacheco and Peter Brewer would draw walks later in the inning to force home a pair of Los Alamos runs.

Leeches went 2-for-3 for Los Alamos Wednesday, while Pacheco and Steinkamp both scored twice.

Pappas said he was impressed with his team’s performance since the end of the regular season until now.

“For three weeks of practice leading up to the first game Saturday, you could tell this was a great group of kids,” Pappas said. “Practicing and then playing every night for five nights, it was really fun for me. They learned a lot, either about baseball or about life, they learned not to give up. A lot of the kids learned that lesson this week.”