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Despite an 8-0 loss to the Piedra Vista Panthers four days earlier, Los Alamos Hilltopper manager Mike Gill thought his team might have turned a corner.
Los Alamos’ baseball team played Piedra Vista, the defending Class AAAA champions, to a 2-0 contest through six innings before the Panthers pushed six runs across the plate in the final inning.
One day later, Los Alamos scored 20 runs against the host Aztec Tigers and that big offensive output continued through Tuesday. Los Alamos jumped on Pojoaque starting pitcher Matt Longacre for four runs in the first inning on its way to a 12-2 thumping of Pojoaque’s Elks at Bomber Field.
Center fielder Ryan Schleft’s two-run base hit in the bottom of the first drove in Zach Mang and Zakk Walterscheid to give the Hilltoppers a 4-run cushion and officially get the rout going.
Longacre, who brought a decent fastball and pretty good breaking ball, fooled some of the Hilltoppers early, but Schleft said he and his teammates were able to adjust.
“I think it’s pretty tough,” Schleft said, talking about Longacre’s curve. “I don’t like sitting there and waiting, but you have think of the curve the whole time.”
Schleft found the hole on the right side of the infield in the first inning to drive in the two runs. For Tuesday’s contest, Schleft went 2-for-3 and scored a run in the third inning.
In the five-inning game, Los Alamos pounded out 12 hits. Third baseman Michael Helland singled in Mang from third base with nobody out in the fifth inning to close out the game via the 10-run rule.
“We’re playing really good ball right now,” Gill said. “We had (Piedra Vista) 2-0 in the top of the seventh. That’s when they realized what they can accomplish.”
Mang started the game on the hill Tuesday. He threw all five innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run. Mang walked three and struck out two.
Gill said after the game he was glad Mang went deep into the contest so he could have pitchers Walterscheid and Jon Thoma available for Saturday’s game against Class AAAA opponent Moriarty, which could be another stiff test for the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos wasted little time jumping ahead of Pojoaque (5-3). Lead-off hitter Eli Pulliam singled to open the bottom of the first, then Adam Eberhart hit a 3-1 fastball over the head of Elks right fielder Fernando Zavala for a stand-up triple.
Eberhart was forced in later after Longacre walked three straight batters to give the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead.
Los Alamos would score in all five of its at-bats Tuesday, getting two runs in both the third and fifth and three in the fourth. Pinch hitter Scott Berkebile drilled a 2-run single of his own in the fourth to plate Walterscheid and Helland. Only two good throw-outs by Longacre, who was moved to shortstop following Helland’s RBI single earlier in the inning, prevented further damage.
Tuesday’s game was just the second home appearance for the Hilltoppers (4-8). They dropped a doubleheader to Piedra Vista to open the season Feb. 28.
Following that outing, Los Alamos spent the next three weekends out of town at tournaments. Because of those tournaments, two of which were played in the Farmington area and the other one at Albuquerque, Los Alamos feels battle tested as it heads closer to the start of the District 2AAAA season April 1.
“There’s nothing that can happen to us from now that didn’t happen to us at those three tournaments,” Gill said.
Mang finished 2-for-2 with a double and three runs scored, while Pulliam went 2-for-4 with and drove in a run Tuesday.