LA needs 2 wins but only manages a split Saturday

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By Mike Cote

It would be tough to say the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team didn’t keep things interesting Saturday.
Unfortunately, the Hilltoppers weren’t able to convert interesting into a needed doubleheader sweep at Overlook Park.
Los Alamos came back from a 1-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning to win the opener against the Bernalillo Spartans, but the Spartans jumped out to a 3-0 lead and added to that lead in the late innings of game two.
When the Spartans seemed to have the second game well in-hand, the Hilltoppers came back to tighten up the ballgame, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Los Alamos won the opener in extra innings 4-3, handing Bernalillo its first loss of the season, but fell 7-3 in the second game.
The nightcap win all but cemented the District 2-4A title for Bernalillo (15-1-1 overall, 7-1 in 2-4A), which isn’t likely to have any trouble from Santa Fe, Española Valley or Capital in its final four games of the regular season. Even if it did, Bernalillo can afford to drop one of those contests, as it owns the season tiebreaker over Los Alamos (10-11, 6-2).
For its likely district title, Bernalillo can heap a big amount of thanks to pitcher Demi Magdalena.
Magdalena went the distance in both ends of the doubleheader. In the two ballgames, she struck out 27 batters. At one point in the first game, she fanned 10 of 11 Hilltopper batters she faced and held the Hilltoppers without a hit until the seventh inning.
For Los Alamos, it needed to win both ends of the doubleheader to claim first place in 2-4A and be the team that had a clear path to the district title.
Nothing about the doubleheader would come easy for Los Alamos, however.
Hilltopper pitcher Kiana Zerr threw all but the final two-thirds of an inning in the doubleheader. She threw a masterful first game to keep Los Alamos alive despite getting little help from her offense.
In the second game, however, the Spartans came out of the gate fired up. They jumped ahead for a quick 3-0 lead with second baseman Char Foster doubling in a run and Magdalena following up immediately with a big shot that easily cleared the center field fence.
Zerr, who pitched and won a key road doubleheader for Los Alamos two weeks earlier at Santa Fe, settled down after the initial big hits from Bernalillo to set down seven straight batters.
Los Alamos had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the second inning, loading the bases with nobody out on two singles and an error, but left all three runners standing and the Spartans’ lead still intact.
Should Bernalillo go on to clinch the district title, the Hilltoppers will have to wait with crossed fingers to see whether they will be invited to the Class 4A postseason.
It would’ve been a moot point, however, had the Hilltoppers dropped the opening contest. Instead, Los Alamos put together about its only offense of the day in the eighth inning when trailing 3-2 in that first game.
High school softball extra inning rules call for a runner to start on second base for the offense. After Bernalillo scored in the top of the eighth to take the lead, Aletta Marciano, the final out of the previous inning, was placed at second but immediately went to third on a wild pitch by Magdalena.
Cristina Perez drew a walk, stole second and, two batters later, advanced to third on a RBI infield single from Dancie Smith.
The next batter, Micaela Christensen, hit a squib shot to shortstop Ashley Perez, whose throw to the plate sailed and Perez was able to slide in for the game-winning run.