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ESPAÑOLA — Heading into a big District 2AAAA doubleheader, the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team had the lofty goal of a sweep.
It got halfway there.
Los Alamos split its 2AAAA doubleheader Thursday, coming back from a late deficit to win 7-5, but falling in the nightcap 9-3 on the road.
While the split was a game short of the Hilltoppers’ hope, it was far-and-away a better performance than many of their recent trips to the valley, particularly in 2008 when the Hilltoppers were swept by a combined score of 19-0.
“A split’s not bad,” Los Alamos first-year manager Roger Anaya said. “We’re even…If the district comes down to one game at home, I like our chances.”
In game one, the Hilltoppers saved the best for last. Their last at-bat, anyway.
The Hilltoppers, who trailed the entire game except for after half an inning, loaded the bases off Española Valley starting pitcher Renee Roybal, who had turned in a solid performance up to that point.
Los Alamos catcher Micaela Christensen lined a sharp single to right field that was then misplayed by right fielder Serena Garcia and rolled to the fence. Christensen and all of the Hilltoppers on base came around to score to take a 7-5 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Hilltopper ace Monika Teter pitched around a lead-off double by Garcia to close out the contest and preserve the first game victory.
Christensen, who has come up with some big hits for Los Alamos this season, was well aware of the gravity of her seventh inning at-bat.
“The main thing is I didn’t want to be too anxious, because then, I’m going to strike out,” she said in between games. “I watched the first strike go by. It was a pretty one. I figured I had to be more aggressive at that point.”
Christensen was credited with two RBI on the hit, then flew around the bases to score well ahead of Española Valley’s throw.
Pinch-hitter Yvette Padilla led off the inning with a base hit to right field, but was thrown out at second after Kristina Radosevich’s bloop dropped into short right-center. Brianna Radosevich singled immediately after, then Ashley Valdez reached on a dropped fly ball in left field.
Roybal, who took the victory in the second game, pitched well enough to win both ends of the doubleheader but her two-for-one bid was hindered considerably by her outfield’s leaky defensive play.
Christensen hammered a fastball into right-center to clear the bases completely, the big blow in a big victory.
In game one, Teter went the distance. Teter, a freshman, got off to a bit of a rocky start, allowing a pair of runs in the first inning, but settled down afterward, striking out the side in order in the second and fourth innings.
In fact, Los Alamos didn’t record a putout until late in the sixth inning as Teter recorded the first 17 outs of the game by strikeout.
Teter, like Roybal, started game two and struck out five in three-plus innings before fatigue got to her in the bottom of the fourth. She was replaced in the fourth by Stephanie Abney, who suffered the loss.
Roybal, meanwhile, still had the majority of the velocity she started the game with even after 13 innings, setting Los Alamos down in order in the top of the seventh to ensure no late-inning heroics would be forthcoming.
“I thought she was going to slow down and she never did,” Anaya said. “I thought we were still putting the ball in play on her, but in the second game (the Sundevils) made some plays.”
Los Alamos (8-9 overall, 4-1 in 2AAAA) led game two after half an inning, but Española Valley (10-7 overall, 5-1 in 2AAAA) scratched two runs out in its first two at-bats, then rallied for a 3-spot in the bottom of the fourth to take control of the contest.