LA drops 2-4A opener to Bernalillo

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By Mike Cote

BERNALILLO – Despite much shifting around of the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team’s alignment, the Hilltoppers couldn’t find the hits when they needed them Wednesday.
Los Alamos opened up its District 2-4A season Wednesday against the Bernalillo Spartans, which may be the team to beat this season.
While Los Alamos did set itself up with some chances, it left the bases juiced in the third inning and left two runners in scoring position stranded in the fifth inning.
Those were two wasted opportunities against Bernalillo pitcher Demi Magdalena, quite possibly the best thrower in the district.
Los Alamos fell in the contest 4-2 at Bernalillo. Bernalillo scored twice in the fourth inning and pushed a big run across in the sixth inning, answering a 2-run rally heading into the final frame.
“That was a very tough pitcher we faced today, but we had opportunities against Bernalillo today,” Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said.
Anaya elected to start Kiana Zerr in the pitcher’s circle. Zerr had only pitched in one game this season, but was up to the task in facing the Spartans.
Things started off shaky for Zerr, who had the first Bernalillo batter of the game, Rachel Duran, go all the way to third on a bunt attempt following a throwing error. Duran would score on a wild pitch one batter later and Zerr wound up walking the next two hitters she faced.
Zerr would settle down after that. She didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and struck out seven batters, at least one in every inning.
Along with Zerr, Aletta Marciano got the starting nod behind the plate and star catcher Micaela Christensen moved out to center field.
Kristin Christensen was moved to shortstop to replace the injured Dancie Smith, who was hurt at last weekend’s Rio Rancho tournament. Both Smith and Krysta Salazar, who had been swinging a hot bat for the Hilltoppers, were out of action Wednesday.
Defensively, the changes didn’t hurt the Hilltopper defense much and the Hilltopper batting order didn’t change to any great extent.
Unfortunately, the offense Los Alamos hoped to generate didn’t come through.
The only inning the Hilltoppers (3-10 overall, 0-1 in 2-4A) managed to score was the sixth, coming up with their two runs. First baseman Erin Kirk belted a RBI double down the right field line to bring Kristin Christensen around from first base to put Los Alamos on the board.
Kirk scored from third on a successful delayed double steal to cut the Spartan advantage to 3-2.
Los Alamos would never tie the contest up, however. Zerr singled in the top of the sixth to bring the tying run to the plate, but wouldn’t even get to second base.
Following the Hilltoppers’ rally to cut the Spartan lead to one run, Dee Lopez came around on a RBI groundout from Lois De Lara, a big insurance run for the Spartans, who at 6-0-1 are the only undefeated team in Class 4A.
Magdelena went the whole way for Bernalillo, giving up five hits and no earned runs.
Wednesday’s contest was one of four big games for Los Alamos this week. It continues with 2-4A play against Santa Fe Saturday, but before that had a game against another 4A team, Albuquerque Academy today.
Los Alamos, the defending district champ, could find itself in a big hole if it doesn’t perform well Saturday, but Anaya said there’s no reason for his team to hit the panic button just yet.
“It is tough to lose the first game, but there are 12 district games,” he said. “Right now, our focus has to be on Academy, then we’ll get ready for Santa Fe this weekend.”
The Hilltoppers have lost five of their last six games and fall to 1-7 against 4A opponents.