LA picks up doubleheader sweep to improve to 3-0

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By Mike Cote

While there’s still a long way to go, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team is off to a good start in keeping its firm grip at the top of District 2-4A.
Los Alamos won one the hard way, then won one the easy way en route to a big district doubleheader sweep Saturday at Bomber Field. Los Alamos scratched out a run in its final at-bat in game one, then, to start off game two, had a big bottom of the first inning that let it play with some cushion.
The Hilltoppers won the opening game 3-2, then cruised to a big 13-3 win in five innings in the nightcap.
The wins put the Hilltoppers at 3-0 early on in 2-4A play. Their toughest test of the district season, however, could come this week when they play at Española Valley.
But for now, Los Alamos will enjoy the wins.
“It was pretty great,” said Hilltopper Jake Downs of the sweep. “The first game was really intense. We just had to battle through it, stay calm and do what we had to do.”
Downs through six strong innings in game one. He gave up just three hits and one earned run before giving way to Connor Mang after pitching to one batter in the seventh — Mang would get credit for the win, setting down all three batters he faced.
Then, in the home half of the seventh, Downs drove in the game-winning run, singling home Zealand Walterscheid to end the contest. Los Alamos never led in the game until Downs’ game winner.
Santa Fe’s Korwin Mueller was the hard-luck loser in the game one. He scattered 6 hits over 6-plus innings and forced several pop-ups at key moments in the game to get out of any major trouble.
It was a different story altogether in the second game.
In the bottom of the first, Los Alamos pounded out four hits and took advantage of some lack of control by starting pitcher Gabe Valdez, who didn’t make it out of the first inning.
Jared Mang had a run-scoring double and came around himself on a wild pitch later in the inning as Los Alamos jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
Los Alamos pushed another five runs across in the third to go up 10-1 at the time, then scored two quick runs in the fifth to close out the game early. Downs and Jared Mang had back-to-back triples in the fifth, setting up the winning run.
Jared Mang would also earn the victory on the hill, throwing five innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out four.
Mang said the key to earning Saturday’s sweep was having the team settle down and playing within itself.
“We had guys pressing a little bit, not having great at-bats,” Mang said of game one heading into game two. “We were getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, being a little bit over-aggressive. Once we settled in and started seeing the ball we were fine.”
Along with going 3-for-4 with 3 RBI in game two, Mang also had a solo home run in the fourth inning of game one. Right fielder Wes Moss went 2-for-3 in the first game.
Los Alamos (10-6 overall) will now travel down to the valley to take on the Sundevils, who have been its biggest competitor in the district for the previous three years and appear to be the toughest district opponent this season as well. The Sundevils won their 2-4 opener 4-1 over Santa Fe last Wednesday and were 1-0 heading into a Saturday doubleheader against Capital, the scores of which hadn’t been reported as of press time.
In the second game, Downs went 3-for-4 and knocked in two runs, while Lane Saunders also drove in a pair of runs, one on a sacrifice fly and one on a RBI groundout.
Mueller, who made a nice diving catch in center field in game two, also scored the first run of that game, coming around on a rare delayed steal of home to give Santa Fe (4-9 overall, 0-3 in 2-4A) what would be a short-lived 1-0 lead.