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A rookie manager stepping into prep competition could have a much worse situation than does Roger Anaya.
Anaya, who is taking over as the skipper of the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team, has several returners coming back this season, many of whom have significant varsity playing experience.
That’s a fact that Anaya is grateful for as he learns the ropes.
“It’s gone well,” he said of his first prep preseason workouts. “It’s exciting to work on the more advanced aspects of the game. The girls and the coaching staff has really helped me.”
Anaya takes over the program after eight-year veteran Randy Burditt stepped down shortly after the 2008 season.
Burditt led Los Alamos to a second-place finish in District 2AAAA last season and a berth in the 2008 state AAAA playoffs. Los Alamos’ stay in the playoffs was short-lived, however, getting knocked out in consecutive games in the double-elimination bracket.
For the regular season, the Hilltoppers finished 14-13 overall and 9-3 in 2AAAA play, all three of those losses came against Española Valley. Española Valley ran the table in the district last season and pummeled the Hilltoppers in all three of those contests, outscoring them by a combined 29-5.
The Hilltoppers open their 2009 campaign Friday when they take part in the Performance Auto Group Softball Challenge, which is being hosted by Piedra Vista. They open up against Piedra Vista in Pool D play at 9 a.m. Friday, then play East Mountain at 4 p.m.
Top placers in each pool will face off in bracket play Saturday, as will the other similar finishers in the four pools.
The Hilltoppers aren’t exactly easing into the season. Piedra Vista is the defending AAAA champion after rolling through the 2008 state bracket — its closest playoff game was decided by four runs and it beat Artesia in the state title game 9-0. East Mountain bounced back from a first round loss in the A-AA state tournament to make a good push in the loser’s bracket before being eliminated two games short of that state title game.
Other competing teams this weekend include Artesia, Silver, Moriarty and Kirtland Central, which all qualified for the AAAA playoffs last season.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Anaya said of the tournament. “There’s going to be some of the most successful programs in the state. Our first game against Piedra Vista, that’s a humongous challenge.”
The Hilltoppers’ first home game is scheduled for Tuesday against Pojoaque.
So far, Los Alamos has been generally happy with how its preseason has gone.
Los Alamos’ defense, which was spotty throughout the 2008 season, has looked solid in the early spring workouts.
The Hilltoppers are hoping the offense will get going this weekend and carry through the nondistrict schedule. They open the district season against Taos April 1.
Los Alamos lost a few big names to graduation, most notably Megan Burditt, who signed to play college ball at Western Nebraska.
Several veterans are back for this season, however, including starters Nyleen Cook, Stephanie Abney and Sam D’Anna. Shelby Courtright is scheduled to return after the basketball season concludes.
Abney will lead a solid pitching staff, which includes an impressive freshman in Monika Teter.
Offensively, one of Los Alamos’ main weapons was outfielder Brianna Radosevich, who returns for her junior year.
The Hilltoppers held a pair of preseason games two weeks ago and hung close with Santa Fe and Santa Fe Indian School in abbreviated games.
In those games, the Hilltoppers didn’t give up many runs in either end of the unofficial doubleheader, but didn’t score a lot of runs, either.
Anaya said if his team can get its hitting game to come around, it should give Española Valley a run for its district money in 2009.
“What we need to work on is maybe getting ready to see some of the faster pitchers in the state,” Anaya said. “We’re working hard on our bat speed. We’ll see some good pitchers this weekend.”