Baseball: LA splits road twinbill vs. Bernalillo

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By Mike Cote

BERNALILLO — Few will ever accuse the 2010 Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team of not having a flair for the dramatic.


In its quest to earn the District 2AAAA championship, Los Alamos had to come back from two runs down in the top of the seventh of Saturday’s game one to earn a big victory. And while the Hilltoppers fell in the second game of Saturday’s twinbill, they still managed to make their final at-bat an interesting one.

The Hilltoppers split the 2AAAA doubleheader against the Bernalillo Spartans, earning a victory in game one 10-6, but falling in the nightcap 7-4.

Although Los Alamos had a chance to claim the district title outright with two wins, the opening win gives it the season tiebreaker over Bernalillo, which it beat twice in head-to-head district competition.

Los Alamos trailed most of the way in the opening game Saturday, with Bernalillo holding a 6-4 advantage heading into the final inning.

But in its last at-bat the Hilltoppers put together a 6-run rally, getting three big hits in the final inning to earn the victory.

“It was intense,” Los Alamos catcher Michael Young said. “It’s happened before. It happened when we were at Taos. We just have to get our offense going earlier on.”

The victory in that contest assured Los Alamos of the tiebreaker with Bernalillo. The two teams actually ended up splitting four regular season meetings, but Bernalillo’s first win over Los Alamos was a nondistrict meeting when the two happened to be on the same side of the bracket at the St. Pius X tournament.

In their final at-bat, the first six Hilltopper hitters in the order all reached base safely. The Hilltoppers took advantage of a leadoff walk to Ryan Schleft, followed by two hit batsmen and a base hit from Lukas Coker. Billy Cooper and Young would follow with RBI singles later in the inning.

It was the fourth time the Hilltoppers had to come back from a late-game deficit in the opening end of a district doubleheader to win. Prior to Saturday, however, the Hilltoppers had always come back to thump their opponents in the second game of the contest to earn the sweep.

But even in Saturday’s second game, which the Spartans led the entire way, things got hairy at the end.

The Spartans pushed two runs across in the bottom of the sixth to grab a 7-2 edge, but with the Hilltoppers’ top of the order starting off the inning, Schelft and Austin Aslin reached base — Aslin doubled Schleft over to third — Coker followed with a two-run single to pare the lead down to 7-4.

Bernalillo’s Thomas Duran, who kept Los Alamos off balance with a good mix of fastballs and breaking stuff, was pulled with nobody out in favor of Ryan Garcia. Garcia quickly set down a pair of batters and three of the four he faced to close out the contest.

“We had our chances to reach our goal this season (Saturday), but as far as taking care of our business, we got the split,” Los Alamos manager Mike Gill said. “We’ve got the tiebreaker and we still control how we finish.”

Schleft started game two on the hill. In the first, Bernalillo’s big bats in the middle of the order, third baseman Zac Martin and Duran, hit back-to-back extra-base hits to push two runs across.

While Los Alamos got one of those runs back in the top of the second, the Spartans (13-7-1 overall, 7-2 in 2AAAA) would score twice more in the bottom of the third to keep control of the contest.

In game one, Coker started and won the contest, going six innings to earn the victory. Berkebile, Los Alamos’ trusty closer, put away three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh.

“Our pitching has been consistent, especially in district,” Young said. “They’ve been coming out and getting the job done and letting our offense finish it.”

The Hilltoppers have three district games remaining. Wins in two of those final three will give the Hilltoppers their second straight district title.