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Softball: LA opens play Friday at Piedra Vista

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By Mike Cote

Heading into the 2010 season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team is expecting big things and believes it has the personnel to accomplish those.

Los Alamos will return the bulk of its roster from the 2009 season, Roger Anaya’s first as manager. It lost just four seniors off that team, only two of which were regular starters.

The Hilltoppers qualified for the Class AAAA state tournament last season after finishing second to Española Valley in the District 2 standings. At the state tournament, the Hilltoppers pulled off one of the most memorable upsets state softball has seen in recent years, knocking off fourth-seeded Farmington in the first round — Los Alamos entered the tournament as a 13 seed.

Starting off this season won’t be easy for Los Alamos, however. Not only will the Hilltoppers head to the very tough Piedra Vista Softball Challenge — their first opponent will be Bloomfield, one of the top AAA programs in the state — they will be going in having had just a handful of work outside.

“I would probably say it will take one to two practices to get your depth perception back,” center fielder Brianna Radosevich said during Tuesday’s workout in White Rock. “You’re not judging (fly balls) against a ceiling.”

Los Alamos has good balance coming back this season, starting on the slab.

Monika Teter, Los Alamos’ top pitcher as a freshman in 2009, returns as the ace again this season. Teter finished with a record of 6-3 and an earned-run average of just 2.48 while striking out 137 batters.

Its other top pitchers, Stephanie Abney and Radosevich, who combined for 7 wins last season, will also return.

Los Alamos has seven seniors returning from last season, including Samantha D’Anna, who will switch positions from catcher and outfield to third base, replacing one of the 2009 hitting leaders, Nyleen Cook.

On offense, catcher Micaela Christensen was among Los Alamos’ leading hitters as an eighth-grader last season. Christensen posted a .612 slugging percentage and knocked in 22 runs, third-best on the team and just one RBI behind Abney, who plays second base when she’s not pitching.

Christensen hit .388 for the season — behind only Los Alamos graduate Yvette Padilla — while Shauni Williams, Shannon Krause and Abney were at or above the .333 hitting mark in 2009.

Los Alamos played two spring training games this weekend, against Santa Fe and Santa Fe Indian School.

“I was surprised how well we did with not being outside,” Radosevich said. “It was a lot different hitting off live pitching.”

After Friday’s game against Bloomfield, the schedule doesn’t get much easier at the tournament. Also scheduled this weekend are contests against three Class AAAA schools, Kirtland Central, Aztec and Shiprock.

“I’m a little nervous, but we’re pumped,” Abney said. “We haven’t been outside much, but other than that, we’re pretty set. We need to get into the groove. We need to work hard. I think we’ll do well.”

Los Alamos will make its first home appearance March 11 against Santa Fe.