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An improbable run through the bottom half of the state tournament bracket took Albuquerque Roadrunner all the way to the championship.
Roadrunner, which lost its first game of the tournament on the final play Saturday, bounced back to win four straight games to get to the state playoff series. Then, Thursday night, Roadrunner swept a doubleheader from the Carlsbad All-Stars to claim the state Juniors Little League title.
The state tournament was held on North Mesa, marking the first time Los Alamos had hosted a state Little League tournament. In all, nine teams participated in the tournament, including the Los Alamos All-Stars.
The tournament was played on Bomber Field and the adjacent Senior Field.
Roadrunner took the opener of the two-game set 5-0, then erased an early 14-run deficit for a win as improbable as its run through the loser’s bracket, taking the nightcap 18-16.
In a tight first ballgame Thursday, Carlsbad blew a chance to put some runs on the board, then some members of the Carlsbad squad started blowing their tops.
With Roadrunner clinging to a 2-0 lead in the fifth, Carlsbad loaded the bases with just one out and the heart of its order coming to bat.
But Roadrunner pitcher Dalton Bowers, who was facing serious trouble for the first time in the game, got Koby Lewis to line out to short center field and then struck out Isaiah Castañeda on a knee-buckling curve.
Castañeda, out of frustration slammed his helmet to the ground and was tossed from the ballgame. A Carlsbad assistant coach, coming out to protest the ejection, was himself ejected.
In the bottom of the fifth, the wheels started coming off for Carlsbad as Roadrunner scored three times on three hits and two Carlsbad errors, bumping their advantage to 5 runs. Carlsbad did nothing with its final two at-bats of the game off reliever Sam Segotta.
Bowers went 5-1/3 innings on the bump, allowing just three hits.
By the start of game two, both teams had largely depleted their pitching staffs, and both suffered early.
Roadrunner surrendered 15 runs in the first two innings of the second game and looked to have fully recovered from the late-game one dramatics.
However, in the second inning after having already surrendered six runs, Roadrunner put in relief pitcher Victor Guevara, who made all the difference. Guevara threw 5-1/3 innings of relief work, giving up just one run on three hits and one walk the rest of the way.
With the pitching now settled in, Roadrunner would bounce back to score eight runs in the bottom of the second, turning an out-of-control 15-1 ballgame into a manageable 15-9 ballgame.
Then, in the bottom of the fourth, Roadrunner would explode for eight more runs, taking a 17-16 lead. It would score an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
In Carlsbad’s first two innings at the plate, David Gonzalez, who two days earlier blasted a 3-run home run against Alamogordo which proved to be the difference in the game, went 3-for-3 with a double, 3 RBI and scored two runs.
Devin Groves drove in two runs in the top of the first for Carlsbad, as did Austin Gregory. Gregory reached base and scored three times in the first two innings.
But the big-swinging Roadrunner squad would bounce back. To get back into the game in the bottom of the second, Bowers had a 2-run double, Jesse Wise had a RBI double and Matthew Givens would come through with a RBI base hit.
Breckan Hunkle finished game two going 1-for-3 with a RBI, Wise was 2-for-4 with a run scored and Addison Bell drove in 3 runs.
With the win, Roadrunner advances to the Little League regional tournament in Odessa, Texas.