LA, Goddard square off in quarters

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Baseball > Teams will play in Rio Rancho Thursday

By Mike Cote

The Class 4A baseball tournament gets going again Thursday, and the Los Alamos Hilltoppers are right in the thick of things.
Los Alamos will make its second consecutive trip to the quarterfinal round Thursday when it faces the Goddard Rockets. The two teams will meet at 1 p.m. at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.
This will be a big test for the Hilltoppers, the No. 7 seed in the tournament. Goddard is the No. 2 seed and had a very good argument, based on its 2014 outcome for the No. 1 seed.
However, if Los Alamos slips past Goddard, it will face either St. Pius X or Farmington in the semifinal round, a winnable game for the Hilltoppers regardless of which team they face.
The trick, however, will be getting past the Rockets.
Goddard ended the regular season with a Class 4A-best record of 22-4. Of its four losses on the season, three were to Class 5A teams and its only loss to a team came in late March against St. Pius X, the No. 3 seed in the 4A tournament.
As expected, the Rockets rolled through their first round series with Santa Teresa. The Rockets outscored Santa Teresa’s Warriors 19-1 in two games Friday and Saturday to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal.
Much like last weekend’s games, Thursday’s game will have two of the top offenses in the state facing off. Centennial and Los Alamos were the Nos. 1-2 scoring teams in 4A, while Goddard, through its 28 games, including the playoffs, has manufactured 215 runs.
At one point in 2014, the Rockets had won 14 straight games, which was the best in the state at the time, until a late-season loss in a nondistrict contest at Carlsbad. Since then, the Hilltoppers have eclipsed that mark — currently, Los Alamos has won 16 consecutive games, including its sweep of Centennial.
In its first round win, Los Alamos was able to take advantage of what it was given against Centennial, and the Centennial defense was a gift that kept on giving. The Hawks committed 17 errors in 11 defensive innings last weekend, five of those coming in the first inning of game one, setting the tone for the remainder of the weekend.
Hilltopper Jared Mang, who not only earned the pitching victory in game one and a save in game two but had big RBI singles in both of the Hilltoppers’ first innings, said the team went into those games primed and ready at the plate.
 “We had guys having really good at-bats,” he said. “We were swinging at the pitches we could hit instead of swinging at the pitchers’ pitches. We managed to work some walks (Friday), get guys on base, then we hammered balls that were up in the zone.”
The quarterfinal round and Friday’s semifinal round will be played at Cleveland. The venue shifts to Isotopes Park in Albuquerque for the 4A championship game.
Los Alamos last reached the state title game in 1998, then as part of Class 3A.