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The Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team will look to break into the win column today when it takes on the Pojoaque Valley Elks.
Los Alamos opened up its 2014 season Saturday, but was swept in a doubleheader in the Four Corners area by the Piedra Vista Panthers.
While Hilltopper manager Mike Gill said he would’ve much preferred a couple of wins at Piedra Vista, he thought his team played very well for an opener.
“We hit the ball pretty hard, but we just didn’t get hits,” Gill said following Saturday’s losses. “We out-hit them (in game two), the difference was when they got guys in scoring position, they got them in.”
Los Alamos lost the first game 7-2, although the Hilltoppers could’ve kept within striking distance if not for some costly errors late.
In the second game, Los Alamos bounced back from a 4-0 deficit and actually led 5-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Piedra Vista, however, scratched out a run in the inning to force extras, and won in nine innings, 6-5.
The Hilltoppers and Panthers have played each other to start the season for several years now and while the Hilltoppers rarely fare well against the Panthers — one of the top programs in the state, regardless of classification — Gill thought it was one of the best showings his team has had this early in the season.
Los Alamos has a deep pitching staff and those that threw Saturday looked solid. Jared Mang, the team’s top returning pitcher, gave up just four hits and struck out four batters in five innings against the Panthers, who more years than not have a powerful offense.
Mang (0-1) allowed only two earned runs, but the Panthers scored five runs in those five innings, four of them coming in the fifth, aided by a pair of Hilltopper errors. Left-handed pitcher Lane Saunders, just joining the team early last week following the wrestling season, threw the sixth inning.
Colin Kitts and Trevor Pacheco were credited with driving in runs in game one.
In the second game, the Panthers (2-0) scored four times in the bottom of the first off starting Los Alamos pitcher Connor Mang, three of those earned.
Mang, Jared’s younger brother, settled down after the initial rough start and actually set Piedra Vista down in order in the next three innings.
Los Alamos bounced back, pushing three runs across in the third inning and two more in the fourth to grab a 5-4 lead.
Gill said his team had several chances to up its lead, but left the bases loaded twice in the game, including the top of the seventh inning with no one out, but three straight batters struck out.
“That clutch hitting we needed, and not even a hit, just to put the ball in play, we didn’t do,” Gill said. “We need to do a better job of battling in that situation.”
Jake Downs (0-1) pitched 4-plus innings and was charged with two runs, including the game-winner by the Panthers. Hilltopper newcomer Nick Sgambellone threw a third of an inning.
Offensively, Connor Mang and Downs combined to go 6-for-9 in the game, with Mang scoring twice and Downs coming through with a double and a run. Jared Mang was 3-for-4 and drove in three runs.
In all, 7 of the 9 players in Los Alamos’ game two lineup earned hits.
Today, Los Alamos will be in nearly as close of proximity to Bomber Field as it will be all in the month of March. Los Alamos has just home game this month and its other games will be mostly in the Albuquerque or the Farmington areas.
Pojoaque Valley (0-2) has gotten off to a rough start so far. The Elks were 10-runned in both of their early season games, albeit to very good programs, Sandia Prep and St. Michael’s.