Baseball: LA sweeps in big 2AAAA doubleheader

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By Mike Cote

After a big come-from-behind win in game one, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team didn’t want to slow its momentum heading into game two.


Scoring seven runs in the home half of the first inning would keep that momentum going just fine.

After a tight, contentious opener against the Española Valley Sundevils Saturday, Los Alamos thumped the Sundevils in the nightcap at Bomber Field. Los Alamos took the first game 11-10, then blasted the Sundevils in game two, 15-2.

The two wins, combined with a 9-8 victory Wednesday against Bernalillo, catapulted Los Alamos to the head of the District 2AAAA standings. Although two-thirds of the district season still remains, Los Alamos is now in full control of its own district destiny.

“We knew coming in this week could really set the tone for the rest of district, good or bad” Los Alamos manager Mike Gill said. “Capital and Taos aren’t going to roll over for us…but it sets us up nicely.”

Things seemed very much up in the air, however, in game one, with Española Valley coming back from an early deficit to take a 5-run lead after 3-1/2 innings.

But with Los Alamos down to its last eight outs, it put together one of the best offensive innings it had up to that point this season.

In the fifth, the Hilltoppers loaded the bases with one out, then got RBI singles from both Lukas Coker and Michael Young. In between, Scott Berkebile drew a walk to force home a run.

The base hit by Young, the Hilltoppers’ designated hitter, drove in Austin Aslin and Coker and would prove to be the game-winning hit.

In the previous inning, the Hilltoppers scored three times, partially answering a big 6-run top of the fourth by Española Valley which gave it the 9-4 advantage.

The Sundevils chased Hilltopper starting pitcher Ryan Schleft in the fourth, an inning he might have gotten out of unscathed if not for an early error. Despite a big sliding catch in center field by Coker for the second out saving a run at the time, Sundevil Joaquin Schopner drew a walk to load the bases with two outs.

Coker, who came on in relief, a role he usually excels in, got touched up for two 2-run singles before getting the third out of the inning.

Following the rough fourth, however, Coker would settle down and allow just one unearned run in the fifth and set Española Valley down in order in the sixth to pick up the victory.

Berkebile fanned three of the four hitters he faced in the seventh to earn the save.

Berkebile, who has worked his way around elbow problems this season, was still delivering good high heat, getting both Ross Duran and Steven Trujillo to chase shoulder-level fastballs for those two punchouts.

Following the doubleheader, Berkebile said his team knew it needed a good outing this week, if for no other reason than to know it could hang with teams like Bernalillo and Española Valley, which are the two biggest threats to a Hilltopper district title repeat.

“It’s a confidence-booster,” said Berkebile. “We’ve got a doubleheader (coming up) against Bernalillo. If we swing like we did (Saturday), we play defense like we did, we’ll be fine.”

Coker actually ended up taking both victories on the bump Saturday. Coker started the second game, throwing 60 total pitches through 5 innings and had faced just two batters more than the minimum heading into the fifth and final inning of game two.

Coker, who threw 2-1/3 innings to get the game one win, needed just 12 pitches to get through the first two innings of the second game.

In the first inning of the nightcap, Los Alamos sent 10 batters to the plate, getting four hitters on base and scoring three before Schopener, the Sundevils’ starting pitcher, recorded his first out. Berkebile delivered a two-run base-knock to set the inning’s tone early.

Berkebile would finish with seven RBI on the day, going 2-for-3 in the first game and 2-for-4 in the second.

Schopener, who had to leave the game after pulling his groin in the second inning, might have been able to contain the first inning damage had his defense played better behind him. Instead, it committed three errors in the inning, two of them coming on fairly routine ground balls early in the inning.

Los Alamos would score eight runs in the fourth to put the game away. Young and Jordan Sandoval came through with RBI doubles in the inning, along with a Berkebile 2-run double.

In the first game, lead-off hitter Ryan Schelft went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Sandoval went 2-for-4 with three runs driven in. Everyone of Los Alamos’ starters had at least one hit in the opener.

In game two, Aslin was 2-for-2, scored twice and knocked in a pair of runs while Billy Cooper was 2-for-2 with a run scored.

Los Alamos (5-10 overall, 4-0 in 2AAAA) struggled at the start of the season against some top shelf Class AAAA competition, but has now won five of its last seven, including three in a row.

“We feel good,” Berkebile said. “Those games were more for getting experience against good teams. You know that’s what you’re going to face.”