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With a big sweep at home, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team is heading into District 2-4A play on a high note.
Los Alamos took two games from the Miyamura Patriots Saturday.
In a rematch from the 2012 first round of the Class 4A playoffs, the Hilltoppers were victorious, taking the first game 3-2 and earning a 7-2 win in the nightcap.
The two games were the last two for the Hilltoppers prior to the start of the 2-4A season. The Hilltoppers will face the Bernalillo Spartans Wednesday in Bernalillo.
But with the sweep and a nondistrict win last Tuesday over the Albuquerque Academy Chargers, Los Alamos may be showing it has turned a corner after a rough start the 2013 season.
There is still plenty of work to be done, however.
Los Alamos didn’t get much going in five of its six at-bats in the first game. A three-run rally, spurred by two Miyamura errors in the fifth inning, was all the offense the team could muster.
The usually sure-handed Patriot defense committed three other big errors in the second game leading to three Hilltopper runs, two in the first inning and another in the sixth.
In the sixth inning of game two, Los Alamos pushed three runs across to break open what had been a tight contest. The big blow of the inning was an inside-the-park home run by Jared Mang, who also tossed a complete game to earn the win on the mound.
“I knew the guys would pick it up,” Mang said afterward, talking about the offense. “We had to have some of those hits fall in. We were just unlucky.”
Los Alamos (6-8) hit the ball hard throughout against the Patriots (3-6), but most of those shots were right at the Miyamura defense.
The two teams met just eight days earlier at the Piedra Vista Invitational, with Miyamura taking a 7-5 decision.
The season win over the Patriots could bolster the Hilltoppers’ position in the playoffs, particularly if they need to get in via an at-large bid.
Currently, only six Class 4A teams have a record better than 1 game above .500. One of those teams, however, is the Española Valley Sundevils, Los Alamos’ chief rival for the 2-4A title.
Los Alamos has won four consecutive district titles.
Hilltopper manager Mike Gill, who has guided Los Alamos to those four district crowns, said his team and Miyamura are about as evenly matched as they could be.
“It’s easy, the difference is whichever team makes the defensive mistakes, that’s the team that’s going to be on the short end,” he said. “We hit the ball a lot better today than we did the last time we played. These are two equal teams.”
In the first game, Miyamura got lead-off batters on base five times but had just the two runs to show for it.
Steven Williams started the game for Los Alamos, going 4-plus innings before allowing a leadoff walk in the fifth. He was replaced by left-hander Lane Saunders.
Saunders went 2-1/3 innings to get the win. Connor Mang earned the save, getting the final two outs of the game, working his way out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the win.
In the bottom of the fifth, Los Alamos got three straight singles – by Tristen Hill, Wesley Moss and Collin Kitts – to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Trevor Pacheco grounded toward second base, but the ball was misplayed and went into the outfield, while the relay throw from center field sailed to the backstop, clearing the bases.
Miyamura countered with a run in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice to second base, but would never find the tying run.
In game two, Jared Mang worked his way out of jams in the first, third and fifth innings. Mang gave up 9 hits but just one earned run for the win. He struck out six and got plenty of support from the defense behind him, which turned double plays to end the fourth and fifth innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the game’s outcome still very much up in the air, Mang’s shallow liner dropped into right field under the Patriot right fielder’s glove and all the way to the fence.
Mang chugged around the bases behind Jake Downs, who singled right before him, and crossed the plate standing up just as the ball was getting back into the infield.
In the first, Mang singled in brother Connor to break the scoreless tie.
He would come around to score on an error one batter later.
Williams drove in Jared Mang with a double in the third and Connor Mang scored on a passed ball after Downs doubled him over to third.
Los Alamos has won four straight games, all over 4A teams – it topped Valencia prior to the Academy win – and pummeled Bernalillo in a nondistrict contest at St. Pius X’s tournament in mid-March, a game that doesn’t count in the district standings.
“The difference the last four game, while we haven’t been playing error-free, but the difference is we’re not compounding those errors,” Gill said. “It’s more our mental attitude. Earlier when we did that, the air would just go out of them. It would ruin them. Now, the guys are picking each other up…we’re starting to gel.”