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The good news for the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team was that it finished the first half of the District 2-4A season with a share of the lead.
The bad news, however, is that the Hilltoppers will have to play out the remainder of the district season on the road.
Due to a scheduling anomaly, the Hilltoppers played all six of their home district games in row, but now will have to take their show on the road for the balance of the season. As unsettling as that may be, there are many worse places to be starting a long road stretch than at the top looking down.
Los Alamos earned a first-place district tie Wednesday, knocking off the Santa Fe Demons 8-2 at Overlook Park. The Demons and the Hilltoppers are both sitting at 5-1 at the halfway point of the 2-4A season and the Hilltoppers, for the moment, anyway, have the tiebreaker.
Los Alamos took advantage of what was given to it Wednesday, including seven Santa Fe errors, all but one of which was charged to pitcher Camille Romero. Los Alamos cashed in on six of those seven errors.
Being able to keep the ball in play playing smallball and forcing the Demon defense to adjust was key, Hilltopper manager Roger Anaya said.
“Bunting was one of the things that helped us,” Anaya said. “We worked on bunts a lot the last couple of days. Our short game is better than it has been and it puts pressure on them to make plays.”
The Demons, who have been a bit of a surprise during the district season, have a potent offense, but that offense was stymied by Hilltopper ace pitcher Monika Teter.
Teter (7-5) had one of her best outings of the season, striking out 13 batters and not allowing a run until the top of the seventh.
Teter, who has been leaned on heavily during the last two weeks, will likely start at least one end of Los Alamos’ doubleheader Saturday at Española Valley.
Micaela Christensen, Los Alamos’ catcher, said Teter shouldn’t have any problem getting through her heavy load of innings.
“She did a good job today,” Christensen said. “I’m very proud of her. She did what we asked for…she’s a beast. She gets through everything.”
Teter settled in quickly against Santa Fe, striking out eight of the 11 batters she faced through the first three innings. Teter moved her pitches up and down the strike zone effectively, keeping her hard stuff on the outside corner. The Demons (8-11 overall, 5-1 in 2-4A) rarely caught up to her fastball.
Her counterpart, Romero, actually had a pretty good pitching outing as well, but the errors proved to be Santa Fe’s downfall. Romero allowed just four hits through six innings and struck out seven, effectively mixing up her speeds well.
The first five Hilltoppers up to bat Wednesday reached base, on two errors, two walks and a base hit. Romero walked in two runs and a wild pitch allowed Rachel Anaya to score for three of Los Alamos’ four runs in its first at-bat.
Los Alamos (10-10 overall) switched up its batting order Wednesday. Shortstop Tina Radosevich, who has been highly effective all season hitting out of the No. 9 spot, moved up to the top of the order against Santa Fe.
From the leadoff spot, Radosevich again had a solid game, going 1-for-3, reaching base three times, scoring a run and driving in a run.
“Being No. 9, I liked it,” Radosevich said of her switch in the order. “Being the lead-off is a big job. It’s your job to get the intensity going. If you hit the first pitch, it gets everyone fired up.”
Radosevich drove in Amethyst Collins as part of a three-run fifth inning that gave the Hilltoppers an 8-0 advantage and seemed to take the wind out of the Demons’ sails.
With two outs in the seventh, however, the Demons put together their only sustained offensive push. Romero drove in two runs with a single off the glove of second baseman Alyssa Van Anne to keep her team’s hopes alive, but Teter fanned Santa Fe cleanup batter Sara Galano two batters later to end the game.
Los Alamos is the defending District 2-4A champ, rolling to a spotless 12-0 record in 2-4A last season, but with six straight district road games coming up, this season’s race will be anything but a cakewalk.
“A lot of teams we play, it’s hard to play them there,” Radosevich said. “Española’s always hard…Bernalillo’s always a tough one. We’ve really got to pick it up, especially at their house.”
Should the second half of the district season go as the first half went, Los Alamos and Santa Fe will face off with the 2-4A title on the line in the teams’ season-ending doubleheader May 7.
“We have to keep the bats going and keep playing good defense,” Christensen said. “We’re backing up Monika really well. The main thing is getting hits.”