Big late innings lift Hilltoppers to 10-1 rout

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By Mike Cote

JACONA — A tight ballgame between the Los Alamos Hiltoppers and the Pojoaque Valley Elks finally got broken open in the top of the fifth inning.
After that, the Hilltoppers kicked that door in even further.
After scraping together a couple of runs through the first four innings and holding on to a 2-run lead, Los Alamos scored five times in the top of the fifth, added a run in the sixth, then came up with four more runs in its final at-bat to win going away, 10-1 at Jacona Field.
Jared Mang had back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth and seventh innings to help Los Alamos secure its first win of the 2014 season.
It took awhile for the Hilltoppers’ offense to get on track Tuesday. Los Alamos center fielder Colin Kitts said that may have had more to do with the team’s two games the weekend before.
“We definitely saw some pretty fast pitching,” Kitts said of the team’s contests at Piedra Vista Saturday. “From seeing PV (throwing) maybe around 80 and their breaking ball around 70, coming over here and (the Elks’) fastball being like 70 and breaking balls around 60, it’s something where you’ve got to learn to adjust. Every team’s going to be different.”
Kitts, like much of the rest of the batting order, was able to make the adjustment.
He went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs, including the first of the game in the top of the first, sending a flare into right field to plate Connor Mang.
The game actually started off shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel. Hilltopper starting pitcher Lane Saunders (1-0), who only joined the team following his state championship wrestling season last week, looked sharp through 4-2/3 innings of work, allowing just one hit and striking out six while walking three — two of those walks he issued were the last two batters he faced before giving way to reliever Nick Sgambellone.
Meanwhile, Pojoaque Valley starter Nathan Aguilar kept the potent Hilltopper offense at bay for most of his four innings of work. Aguilar used an effective mix of breaking and off-speed stuff to slow down the Hiltoppers’ bats.
Through Aguilar’s time on the mound, he surrendered five hits, but only one of those was hit with authority, while his defense committed two errors behind him.
Los Alamos did most of its damage off reliever Aaron Atencio, who took over for Aguilar to start the fifth. In the final three innings, the Hilltoppers (1-2) collected six of their 11 hits for the game, including RBI hits from Kitts and the RBI doubles from Mang.
The win was the first of the year for the Hilltoppers, who dropped both ends of a doubleheader last weekend at Piedra Vista, although kept close with the Panthers through most of game one and had a 5-4 edge heading into the bottom of the seventh in game two.
Jared Mang finished 3-for-3 with four runs driven in, one of which came on a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
Connor Mang scored three times and third baseman Jake Downs scored twice.
With Los Alamos’ strong and experience lineup — only two players weren’t credited with at least one hit against the Elks — Kitts said only some minor adjustments would be needed going forth.
“I think we just really had to work on our timing, getting our foot down,” Kitts said. “Get our hands to the ball. That’s what we’ve been doing in practice, really, just a lot of batting practice, focusing on our timing. If our foot’s not down, we’re not going to hit the ball.”
Devon Escobedo had the only extra-base hit and scored the only run of the game for the Elks (0-3), who have surrendered double-digit run totals in each of their three games on the year so far.