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For being a relatively low-scoring game, there was a lot happening around home plate Friday night.
Los Alamos Juniors All-Star catcher Alan Keeler had three putouts in Friday’s state tournament opener against Raton, including a tag out in extra innings to preserve a tie.
In the top of the ninth, Los Alamos scored two runs to outlast Raton 5-3 in the first round at state. Los Alamos moves on in the top half of the bracket to play Carlsbad at 10 a.m. today.
The tournament continues through Thursday at Bomber Field and Senior Field on North Mesa.
“This was huge,” Keeler said following Friday night’s wild contest. “Now we have all our pitchers except Austin. We have an easier road in the winner’s bracket.”
Raton, the home team Friday – in tournament play, home team is decided by a pre-game coin flip – had runners on first and second with just one out in the bottom of the eighth.
Los Alamos attempted a pick-off of Raton’s George Marquez at second base, but an errant throw allowed him to advance to third. With the ball at third base, Raton’s other runner, Jeremy Armijo, scampered to second.
When a throw to get Armijo went to second baseman JD Weiss, Marquez broke for home. Weiss threw a one-hopper to Keeler, who collided with Marquez barreling down the third baseline.
Marquez never reached the dish.
With its next at-bat, Los Alamos would go up by two, then set Raton down quietly in the bottom half of the ninth to take the win and advance.
“I saw JD with the ball,” Keeler said. “I said to myself ‘(Marquez is) coming.’ The throw was a little short but I got it and tagged him out. I’ve always wanted to dive and get somebody.”
Los Alamos scored its winning runs in the ninth without putting a ball in play.
Steven Williams and Michael Young drew walks to lead-off the inning. Following those two walks, Raton changed pitchers, putting AJ Garcia on the mound.
Garcia struck out the next batter, but in that at-bat threw a wild pitch to the backstop on the fly. Williams would score one batter later on a passed ball, and Garcia would toss another wild pitch, scoring Young.
In the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Henry Steinkamp dove to grab Matt Ortiz’s line drive for the first out, putting a big damper on Raton’s hopes of making a comeback.
Los Alamos coach Jamie Aslin said the team’s defense came up big all night when it needed to.
“We kept the ball in front of the runners to ensure that we didn’t give them anything,” Aslin said. “We played our defense to get out at home and we executed.”
Going into today’s game, Los Alamos will have all of its pitchers available except Friday night’s starter Austin Aslin.
Aslin went five solid innings, giving up just six hits and issuing just one walk, striking out nine.
Following Aslin was Weiss, who was followed by Williams and then Zeke Zumbro, who finished the game and was credited with the victory.
Because all of Los Alamos’ relievers threw 20 pitches or fewer Friday – a calculated risk by the Los Alamos bench which paid off well – all may see action today.
Los Alamos trailed for a good portion of the game. Raton scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings to grab a 3-2 lead which it held until the top of the seventh.
Raton catcher Jeremy Sisneros went 2-for-4 with a double Friday night, scoring two of Raton’s three runs. Left fielder Dylan Aragon scored the other Raton run in the bottom of the fourth on a bloop single by Ortiz.
In its last at-bat in regulation, Young drew a two-out, bases-empty walk on what was Marquez’s last pitch of the night. Marquez, who started the game, exhausted his allotment of 95 pitches with the fourth ball to Young.
Young would advance to second on a passed ball and would steal third two batters later.
With Young at third, Raton reliever Blake Washburn made a pick-off move to first base but the first baseman wasn’t covering the bag. Washburn balked on the play and Young was awarded home to tie the score at 3-3.
Young, one of Los Alamos’ main offensive threats, was nursing a bad left knee heading into the tournament and was actually planning on turning around and hitting left-handed if his knee couldn’t handle the torque.
Apparently, though, Young’s knee was feeling better by game time. In his first at-bat from the right side of the plate, Young doubled home Williams to give Los Alamos its first lead of the game.
Coach Aslin said that if Young’s knee is feeling up to it, he may even see time on the mound. Young is Los Alamos’ second starter but his ability to pitch with his injury is still somewhat in doubt.
Young went 2-for-2 with an infield hit, drew two walks and scored two runs. He had the only two hits Los Alamos managed off Marquez.
Los Alamos had just three hits in the nine innings, the third a single by Keeler in the eighth.