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Softball: LA opens 2AAAA with win at Taos

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By Mike Cote

TAOS – The prettiest district win and the ugliest district win count exactly the same in the standings.While the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team wasn’t pleased with its overall performance Wednesday, it will take the win in its District 2AAAA opener. Los Alamos had 16 hits in five-plus innings before its game against the Taos Tigers was called due to cold, snowy conditions.Los Alamos won the weather-shortened contest 20-13 in the top of the sixth.As happy as the Hilltoppers were pounding out their 16 hits – which included a pair of triples – they weren’t as happy with committing six errors, five of those coming in the third inning with the Hilltoppers having a chance to all but put the game away.The weather was rough, and many on the team felt it was a big contributing factor to the struggles on defense.“It’s really hard to get a grip on the ball when your hands are frozen,” Los Alamos center fielder Brianna Radosevich said. “That affected our throws a little bit.”Nevertheless, Los Alamos (6-8 overall, 1-0 in 2AAAA) picked up a big road win in Taos, a place where it has struggled in recent seasons.Radosevich was one of the big hitting heroes for the Hilltoppers Wednesday. Hitting in the two-slot, Radosevich went 3-for-3 with a triple, scored three runs and drove in two more runs.Neither team was able to keep the other off the scoreboard in any half inning Wednesday and was only able to limit the other to one run once per side.Los Alamos trailed only after the first inning. In the bottom of the first, Taos pitcher Jess Marquez belted a two-run triple into the right-center field gap to give the Tigers a 3-1 edge.As with Taos’ big inning in the bottom of the third, Los Alamos might have gotten out of the inning unscathed, but couldn’t retire anyone on two fielder’s choice chances before Marquez’s hit.Los Alamos retook the lead in the top of the second with Radosevich’s RBI triple, which scored shortstop Megan Burditt. Burditt tied the score with a base hit that plated Christina Radosevich and Megan Breiner, both of whom reached with back-to-back two-out base hits.Los Alamos hit Marquez hard in the first part of the game, despite the less-than-ideal hitting conditions of steady rain and near-freezing temperatures.Marquez, who doesn’t have great velocity, tried sneaking off-speed pitches past the Hilltoppers for much of the contest, but the ’Toppers were up to the challenge Wednesday.“Right here is proof that playing our tournament was a big benefit to us,” Los Alamos manager Randy Burditt said, alluding to the Green and Gold Tournament held in White Rock a week and a half ago. “Everybody was putting their bat on the ball…I’m really happy with that.”At the tournament, Los Alamos saw pitcher Kassandra McCook of Sandia Prep, who threw very lightly. After struggling against her for one game, Los Alamos found its timing in game two and pounded her.The Hilltoppers threatened to slam the door on the Tigers early with a big third inning. Taking advantage of five hits and a costly Tiger error, the ’Toppers pushed six runs across the plate, blowing the game open.Pitcher Ashley Merhege lined a two-run single down the third baseline and the next batter, catcher Cassandra Arellano, crushed a triple into right center to drive in Merhege, giving the Hilltoppers an 11-4 advantage.Los Alamos could’ve all but nailed home the win in the bottom of the third, but the defense botched two routine ground balls to start the inning.The ’Toppers committed five errors in the inning, and Merhege was touched up for a two-run double by Taos shortstop Oneta Thomas – a double which should’ve resulted in no runs as Merhege would’ve gotten out of the inning by getting the next batter to pop out to second.But Los Alamos picked up three runs in the fourth and six more in the fifth to up its edge to 20-11. Taos scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth before the game was called.“We were hitting really strong and we were bunting even better,” Radosevich said. “Our short game really helped. They had a hard time defensively with our bunts, and that really helped our offense.”Taos struggled with its bunt coverage all afternoon, throwing the ball away twice on bunts to start the fifth. The throw from Marquez on a Shelby Courtright bunt finally came to rest in deep right field. A run scored and Courtright ended up on third on the play.Marquez went the distance Wednesday for Taos (1-12 overall, 0-1 in 2AAAA).Merhege picked up the win, going five innings and giving up seven earned runs.Burditt was 4-for-5 Wednesday with four runs scored and two more knocked in.In all, eight of the nine Hilltopper starters got at least one hit Wednesday.Marquez was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple for Taos.