Softball: Toppers open 2-4A play today

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By Mike Cote

The 2009 softball season in northern New Mexico takes a big turn starting today and the Los Alamos Hilltoppers hope they can catch that corner correctly.

The Hilltoppers open their District 2AAAA season on the road today against the Taos Tigers.

Los Alamos has high hopes of competing for the district title this season, but it’s not likely to be a cakewalk. Los Alamos will have to compete with the Española Valley Sundevils, the two-time defending district champions.

While in 2008 the 2AAAA race was mostly a two-team affair between the Sundevils and the Hilltoppers, Los Alamos first-year manager Roger Anaya said the Bernalillo Spartans could be a factor in the race when all is said and done.

“I see them being able to upset a few teams,” Anaya said. “They’ll be in the middle of it. When we play them down there (April 8), we’re going to put the best team we can on the field against them.”

The Hilltoppers feel the Spartans (3-5) could be trouble based on the teams’ March 21 meeting during the Los Alamos Softball Tournament. The Spartans rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 5-4 lead before the Hilltoppers countered with two of their own in the bottom of the frame to win 6-5.

Incidental meetings at tournaments between district teams don’t count in the district standings.

However, Bernalillo’s results so far this season have been all over the place. Just three days after whacking Taos 17-2 at the Los Alamos tournament, the Spartans were crushed at home 13-0 at the hands of an unheralded West Mesa squad.

Bernalillo opens its 2AAAA schedule Saturday in a doubleheader at Capital.

Los Alamos (4-7) hasn’t played since its tournament. A scheduled game against Santa Fe March 24 was canceled because Santa Fe double-booked the date and elected to play cross-town rival Capital.

Anaya, who was originally chagrinned that his team would have so much time between games, said that now he’s happy Los Alamos had the extra workout days.

“We had a really great week of practice,” he said. “Last week we were able to work on some things that we were making mistakes on.”

Anaya feels his team has made significant strides on defense and hopes those translate into short innings for his pitchers.

Freshman Monika Teter, Los Alamos’ ace pitcher, will likely get the starting nod against Taos (0-10), mostly because Teter missed the tournament and hasn’t seen any work since a March 17 game against Moriarty.

All three of Los Alamos’ pitchers — Teter, Stephanie Abney and Brianna Radosevich — will be available for today’s game, Anaya said, and all three may throw some innings if everything works out.

The Hilltoppers saw the Tigers at their tournament and topped them 14-0 in just 4-1/2 innings.

Española Valley (5-5) won three of four to open the season but have since cooled off, although it won its most recent meeting against McCurdy, doubling the Bobcats up 8-4.

Still, the Sundevils are generally considered as the team to beat at this point after going undefeated in 2008 and returning some key position players this season.

In the 2008 race, the Sundevils took control of the district early with a doubleheader sweep of the Hilltoppers, winning the two games by a combined 19-0.

Los Alamos plays a pair of games at Española Valley April 11.

“That will be a big indication to see how we finish district,” Anaya said.

The Sundevils open up district play against the Capital Jaguars today. The Jaguars haven’t had the best of nondistricts, going just 2-9, but arguably have played the toughest schedule among the 2AAAA teams.

Capital and Española Valley met at the St. Michael’s Invitational with Española Valley winning handily, 9-1. Capital has been held to under three runs seven times this season.