Baseball: LA, Taos meet in district

-A A +A
By Mike Cote

The door looks pretty wide open heading into the 2009 District 2AAAA baseball season.

And going into today’s 2AAAA opener against Taos, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers are hoping to be the ones that walk through.

Only four wins separate four of the five schools in 2AAAA heading into the district’s opening day today. The Capital Jaguars, the fifth team, are being shut out in the win column in 2009.

Today’s game at Taos is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Taos is one of two schools in the district that is currently posting a winning record (7-6). Heading into today’s opener, Taos has won three of its last four contests to break the .500 mark.

In their last contest, however, the Tigers were dropped by the Pojoaque Elks, 6-5 at Pojoaque. The Hilltoppers made quick work of the Elks in their last game, blasting them in five innings 12-2 at Bomber Field March 24.

At this point, however, records and results don’t mean a whole lot to Hilltopper manager Mike Gill, who is quick to point out most of the teams in the district had basketball players playing well into March. Because of that, many teams are probably just now getting up to speed.

The win over Pojoaque was Los Alamos’ second in a row and the second game in which it pushed double-digit runs across the plate.

Against Pojoaque, Los Alamos pounded 12 hits in the five innings with third baseman Michael Helland’s single through the left side of the infield driving in the two runs to close out the game early.

Gill said the offensive success has been due simply to getting the bat on the ball.

“We’re doing a good job of not popping the ball up,” he said. “Anybody can catch a fly ball. You put a lot more pressure on the defense, obviously, when you’re hitting hard ground balls and line drives.”

It’s a good time for the Hilltoppers to meet up with the Tigers with the offense clicking.

The Tigers have held just two opponents to less than six runs in any games this season and have allowed 10 or more runs on five occasions.

Taos, for its part, started out the season winning its first four games, but then lost five straight, staying close in only one of those losses.

The Tigers haven’t beaten a Class AAAA school this season — they lost both ends of a doubleheader to Roswell, the only AAAA team they’ve faced.

Taos has shown the ability to score runs, however, and Los Alamos has given up some hefty run totals of its own on the season. Prior to the Pojoaque game, in which pitcher Zach Mang allowed just one earned run through five innings, Los Alamos had surrendered 37 runs in its previous four games.

Gill said the team’s top hurler, Zakk Walterscheid, is scheduled to start against Taos today.

“He’s been our ace this year,” Gill said. “He’s thrown against nothing but Farmington schools, so he doesn’t have a good record right now, but his ERA, considering the competition he’s been up against, is excellent.”

Bernalillo won 2AAAA in 2008 for the second straight season and could be the team to beat in 2009.

Bernalillo’s Spartans (6-4) swept the Hilltoppers in their three district meetings last season, a big part of their district title run.

The relative strength of the Spartans is tough to judge as they’ve been on both ends of some lopsided contests in 2009. They were blown out by both St. Pius X and Albuquerque Academy at St. Pius’ tournament in mid March and lost 9-1 to Belen Saturday at home.

Bernalillo opens district play Saturday with a doubleheader at Capital (0-11).

Española Valley (3-8), which hosts Capital in today’s other district contest, hasn’t done all that well against fairly thin nondistrict competition, although its schedule included two games against the very tough Class AAA Cobre Indians squad.