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LOS LUNAS — They were one-half inning away from pulling off a major upset, but the Los Lunas Tigers had other plans for the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Los Alamos Hilltoppers led 7-5 over the homestanding Tigers in the first round of the Class 4A softball playoffs, but the Tigers rallied for three runs in their final at-bat to take an exciting 8-7 victory.
Los Lunas catcher Amanda Gonzales came through with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh and, two pitches later, second baseman Cienna Thompson scored the walk-off run on a wild pitch to give the Tigers the victory.
It was a heart-wrenching loss for the Hilltoppers (14-12), who came up with five runs in the sixth inning to take a 7-3 edge at the time. Los Alamos center fielder Krysta Salazar knocked in two runs with a base hit to right-center to give Los Alamos, the No. 12 seed in the 4A tournament, its first lead of the ballgame.
And although it looked like it would be enough to get Los Alamos to the quarterfinal round of the 4A playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Tigers had other plans.
“We knew we didn’t have to get the whole chunk back at once,” Los Lunas manager Paul Cieremans said after the game of the late innings. “We’ve got good hitters 1 through 9. Everybody’s capable of RBIs and doing their part.”
Los Lunas’ Angela Duran, who wound up as the game’s winning pitcher, belted a 2-run home run way over the right field fence to get her team back to within 7-5 in the sixth inning. That shot by Duran, the Tigers’ No. 9 hitter who had struggled at the plate up to that point, seemed to snap the fifth-seeded Tigers (20-7) awake after getting little going offensively in the middle innings.
Hilltopper junior Kiana Zerr got the nod on the pitching slab Saturday. Zerr, who had not thrown at the varsity level until this season, was sharp for most of the game against a good-swinging Tiger team.
Hilltopper manager Roger Anaya said his team knew going into the game it would have to stay within striking distance of Los Lunas to have a shot at the upset.
“Last year after three innings we’d get into a deep hole,” he said. “I told the girls this time we’d have to keep the game close.”
This is the second year in a row Los Lunas has topped Los Alamos in the playoffs. Los Lunas thumped Los Alamos 10-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2012 postseason.
Salazar finished the game 2-for-4 with the two RBI and scored a run, hitting the ball on the nose three times. Dancie Smith doubled in two runs as part of the big sixth inning rally and Alyssa Mojica had a RBI single in the third inning.
“I told the girls this one would hurt for a little while,” Anaya said afterward.