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RIO RANCHO — For a pair of very evenly matched teams, seven innings wasn’t enough to settle anything Thursday.
In the first round of the Class 4A softball playoffs Thursday morning, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers and the Del Norte Knights needed an extra inning to determine who would move on to the opening round of double-elimination play.
But the Knights got the critical hit when they needed to Thursday at Rio Rancho High School. Clean-up hitter Gabby Moreno dropped a clean single into the outfield to score Deja Sisneros from third base to give her team a 5-4 extra-inning victory.
The loss Thursday morning to ninth-seeded Del Norte eliminated eighth-seeded Los Alamos from the 2011 state playoffs.
Los Alamos scored all of its runs in the top of the third inning without hitting a ball out of the infield. Los Alamos got just one infield hit and took advantage of two walks, a hit batter and an error.
But the Hilltoppers would strand eight runners in the game, leaving the bases full in the first inning and two on in the second inning.
With their four runs in the top of the third, the Hilltoppers took a 4-2 lead. However, the Knights would score single runs in the bottom of the third and bottom of the fourth to tie the score.
Hilltopper ace Monika Teter threw the entire ballgame, battling it out with her Knight counterpart Veronica Holloman.
Teter gave up 11 hits against a good-swinging Del Norte lineup, which was able to manufacture several run chances throughout the game.
Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya couldn’t fault the effort of his team Thursday.
“They fought. It goes to prove that we belong in these kind of tournaments,” Anaya said. “We had some mental mistakes, but we has some opportunities. I was proud of our defense. They made some plays to keep us in the game.”
Los Alamos turned a double play to get out of the first inning after Del Norte (17-8) put runners on first and second with one out, then in the next frame, second baseman Aimee Gutierrez threw out two runners at home on consecutive plays with the bases loaded, quelling what could’ve been a disastrous inning.
Holloman, for her part, worked the ball well around the strike zone, using mainly fastballs and dropballs. Holloman gave up only five hits in eight innings and might have gotten out of the second inning after surrendering just two runs if not for a throwing error on a routine ground ball.
In the eighth, Los Alamos’ Arianne Oro advanced to third on a wild pitch — in softball, both teams start extra innings with a runner on second base — but was thrown out at the plate trying to advance when Holloman bobbled a comebacker.
In the Del Norte half of the inning, Los Alamos’ Erin Kirk snagged a foul line drive to retire Alyssa Salazar, a dangerous hitter, but two batters later Moreno’s single brought Sisneros around.
The Hilltoppers, who won the District 2-4A championship for the third consecutive year under Anaya in 2011, will have the entire roster back in 2012 with the exception of shortstop Tina Radosevich.
Radosevich, who was switched in the second half of the season from the No. 9 hole in the batting order to the No. 1 hole, became one of the Hilltoppers’ best offensive players from that lead-off spot.
For Los Alamos, catcher Micaela Christensen went 2-for-4, the only Hilltopper to pick up more than one hit. Kristen Christensen was 1-for-2 with a run scored and a run batted in.
Danika Blewitt of Del Norte was 3-for-4 with a RBI and Holloman was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Los Alamos finishes the 2011 season with a record of 15-12.