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For the past several seasons, the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team has found itself on several occasions just a hit or two away from victory.
In too many of those scenarios, however, the Hilltoppers haven’t been able to find that hit or two.
So it was refreshing for Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya to see his team come up with some clutch hitting to help put away a stout Class 4A opponent Tuesday afternoon at Overlook Park.
With Los Alamos and the Moriarty Pintos deadlocked at 2-2 after 4-1/2 innings, the team put two big hits together to score a run with two out in the fifth, then pushed another pair across in the sixth to close out what could turn out to be a key victory as the season wears on.
The Hilltoppers (2-5), who lost to the Pintos 3-1 in Moriarty last season, were more than a little happy to earn Tuesday’s 5-2 victory.
It was a particularly good day for Los Alamos’ sluggers, who combined for four extra-base hits against Morgan McWilliams, a solid Class 4A pitcher. In the first inning, Emily Lucero, hitting in the clean-up spot, drilled a McWilliams fastball that caught a little too much of the plate for a two-run home run into dead center.
“I enjoyed it,” Lucero said afterward. “I was surprised I got that pitch because it was the same pitch as the first strike.”
The Hilltoppers have been making extra efforts this season to be more aggressive early in the count, something they feel is already paying dividends.
First baseman Erin Kirk, who has been only with the team for 11 days — she, along with pitcher Monika Teter and shortstop Tina Radosevich had been finishing up the basketball season — belted an opposite-field triple in the fifth inning to drive home Ariana Larkin after her two-out double, giving Los Alamos a 3-2 edge.
The next inning, Los Alamos’ top offensive weapon, catcher Micaela Christensen, doubled down the third baseline to drive in a big insurance run.
Los Alamos’ loss last season to Moriarty may well have cost it a better seed in the Class 4A state tournament. Anaya said this victory could well have the same impact in reverse in 2011.
“It’s always a good battle,” said Anaya of his team’s contests with Moriarty. “McWilliams throws hard. We’ve been working a lot on our bat speed. We’ve talked about getting those timely hits and today we got them.”
On the slab for the Hilltoppers, Teter, the team’s ace, gave up just two unearned runs Tuesday, one in the second and the other in the fourth which tied the score. Teter allowed just three hits in the complete game victory, striking out nine batters, including all three outs she recorded to close out the seventh.