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As any softball player in northern New Mexico will say, few things sting the hands as much as a ball hit off the end of the bat on a cold day.
So when Monika Teter connected with a first-pitch change-up in the sixth inning and she felt no sting at all, she knew the ball was going somewhere.
“That felt really good,” Teter said. “That’s one of those hits you don’t feel a thing. I’ve had those stings with hitting, but that felt good.”
Late in Wednesday’s game at Overlook Park, with the temperature dropping and the sparkle rising in the favor of the Española Valley Sundevils, Teter gave her team a much-needed lift.
Teter crushed the off-speed pitch over the center field fence, tacking on a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, which helped Los Alamos secure a 4-2 victory over Española Valley in the District 2-4A opener for both teams.
Just before Teter’s solo shot, Española Valley had pushed two runs across the plate against Teter, the Hilltoppers’ starting pitcher, in the previous two innings to slice the Hillltoppers’ lead down to one.
But Española Valley, which had threatened big innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth, couldn’t muster anything in its final at-bat after Teter’s home run, going down in order to close out the contest.
“That insurance run was big for us,” Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said. “The momentum was beginning to shift toward (the Sundevils).”
The Hilltoppers (6-9 overall, 1-0 in 2-4A), the defending district champions, wanted to make sure they secured a win in their opener to put pressure on the shoulders of their district foes. They will have a big doubleheader next week against Bernalillo, one that could prove to be pivotal in the 2-4A race this season, but for now, they are glad to get their first district win out of the way.
Teter, who has been Los Alamos’ ace pitcher for the last two seasons, set down seven of the first eight batters she faced.
But Española Valley’s lineup, which has come through this season with good run production, was able to scrape together some offense in the middle innings.
With Los Alamos up 3-0 after four innings, Española Valley (5-9, 0-1) got on the scoreboard with two singles — one of them a bloop falling into short right field, the other a squibber which only made it halfway down the third baseline — and set up by a gutsy, two-out double-steal call from manager Robert Garcia in the fifth.
In the Sundevils’ next at-bat, catcher Jenay Naranjo’s well-executed squeeze bunt plated Maria Serna to cut Los Alamos’ edge to 3-2.
Teter only surrendered five hits and one earned run on the game to secure the win.
Meanwhile, Los Alamos’ offense, which has been solid during the last several games, started out hot, hitting up Española Valley pitcher Marisa Martinez for seven hits in the first three innings.
Martinez, however, settled down after that, setting Los Alamos down in order in the fourth and pitching her way out of a jam in the fifth as her team got back in the ballgame.
Martinez, who is not a fireballer like Española Valley’s pitching rotation has touted in the recent past, used a good mix of off-speed and breaking pitches to keep Los Alamos hitters a bit unsettled.
“I think that took us a little while to adjust to that speed,” Anaya said. “We’ve seen a lot of fastballs thrown at us this year and she throws a lot of off-speed stuff. She worked the outside corner very well.”
Los Alamos scored twice in the second, with No. 9 hitter Tina Radosevich, who has been effective at driving in runs from that spot this season, hitting a RBI single to score Lexi Mang, breaking the scoreless tie.
The next inning, designated hitter Emily Lucero ended up on third after the throw in from the outfield on her two-out single ended up in the Hilltopper dugout.
Lucero scored on Kristin Christensen’s base hit one pitch later.
Los Alamos finished with 10 hits in the game with Teter and Radosevich, the last two batters in the Hilltopper order, both finishing 2-for-3.
Teter said she couldn’t have been happier with Wednesday’s victory.
“I’m excited. I’m so excited,” she said. “I’m very proud of our team. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season. This definitely gives us a big confidence boost.”