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Baseball: LA picks up first win Friday

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By Mike Cote

The Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team picked up its first win of the season at the St. Pius X Invitational sandwiched in between a pair of losses.Los Alamos pounded out seven extra-base hits on its way to an 18-8 rout of Sandia Prep to grab its first win of 2008 Friday.Jack Russell and Michael Helland, playing in their first game of the season after joining the team following the end of the basketball season, went a combined 5-for-7 from the plate and drove in five runs between them.Los Alamos finished the St. Pius Invitational with a loss to Piedra Vista, the third time the teams have seen each other in Los Alamos’ six games. Los Alamos manager Mike Gill said the team was swinging the bat just as well as it had the previous day, but were either hitting line drives right at the Piedra Vista defense or getting a little under Piedra Vista’s pitching and putting balls in the air.On Thursday, the Hilltoppers (1-5) lost their first game of the tournament, to San Juan, Utah, 7-2.Gill said his team is only a few adjustments away from taking off.“All in all, 1-2 isn’t good for us in terms of wins and losses, but we played well,” he said. “We played good, focused baseball for 15 innings. The kids feel they’re on the verge of putting everything together.”Following the opening round loss to San Juan — in which Los Alamos pitchers Zak Walterscheid (0-1) and Scott Berkebile allowed one earned run between them and the Los Alamos defense allowed the rest — the Hilltoppers exploded against Sandia Prep’s Sundevils.Gill said there wasn’t a lot of differences between the pitching styles the Hilltoppers saw Thursday and Friday. The biggest difference was that on Thursday the ‘Topper hitters were out in front of everything and on Friday they had their timing down pat.Zach Mang, batting in the lead-off spot, finished the game 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and four runs scored. “Mang definitely sparked our offense,” Gill said. “He started the game with a hit, and Walterscheid had a double right after that.”Eli Pulliam was 2-for-3 with a triple, four runs scored and three batted in.Jeremy Kasik (1-1) earned the win in the five-inning game, throwing three innings, giving up just two runs (one earned) on three hits. He walked two and struck out two.Pat Berkebile got his first work of the season to close out the game, giving up six runs on four hits. He walked three and fanned two.In Saturday’s game, Scott Berkebile (0-3) got hit hard in the first two innings by Piedra Vista, giving up eight runs in those two innings.Berkebile settled down, threw the ball to his spots better, got his off-speed stuff working better and got the Panthers to pop up several times in the last three innings. Berkebile didn’t allow a run after the first two innings.Meanwhile, Los Alamos couldn’t buy a hit Saturday. Helland ripped a ball to the warning track but the Panther outfield ran it down before it fell, and Pulliam was robbed twice in the game by the Panther infield.Three of Los Alamos’ losses have been to Piedra Vista.. Piedra Vista swept Los Alamos in a doubleheader last week in Farmington.The Hilltoppers head to Moriarty Tuesday for a game against the 2007 Class AAAA runner-up Pintos.Gill said his big goal Tuesday is to work as many pitchers through as he can. Mang, Ryan Schleft and Jon Thoma have yet to throw a pitch between them this season, and Gill hopes all of them will see at least some work.