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Starting today, the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team will get a shot at defending its District 2-4A crown.
Los Alamos hosts what has been its toughest district opponent at 4 p.m. Española Valley’s Sundevils will be looking to put the Hilltoppers into an early district hole at Overlook Park in White Rock.
The Hilltoppers were dominant in the 2010 2-4A race, going a spotless 12-0 against the other four district squads. While the Hilltoppers have been playing better ball in recent weeks, pulling off the same feat in 2011 could be a tall order.
Manager Roger Anaya said the district race could be a tight one this season and getting off to a good start will be key.
“We’d like to get that win right away and stay up at the top of the district,” he said. “The second half of the season begins now.”
Los Alamos got off to a rough start in 2011, going 2-8 before reeling off three straight victories. That win streak was snapped Saturday, however, with Los Alamos losing to Raton 8-1.
Los Alamos, Española Valley and Bernalillo could all make a run for the district crown. Santa Fe and Capital have both struggled in the nondistrict season, particularly Capital (1-11), and aren’t expected to be big factors in the title race.
Over the last several seasons, Española Valley has proven to be a tough customer in District 2AAAA play. Española Valley had won two straight district titles prior to 2010 before Los Alamos snapped its streak.
This nondistrict season, the Sundevils (5-8) have been up and down the dial. In their most recent outing, the Sundevils fell to the Pojoaque Elks 11-7, a team Los Alamos beat by 10 runs March 22.
The Sundevils have shown some offensive firepower this season, scoring 10 or more runs five times. However, they’ve also allowed 10 or more runs six times, all but one of those games resulting in losses.
Española Valley graduated its top player from 2011, pitcher Renee Roybal.
Last season, Los Alamos swept Española Valley. Española Valley hung tough in the doubleheader played in White Rock, but Los Alamos picked up shootout victories in both ends, then grabbed a relatively easy 7-3 victory at Española Valley two weeks later.
The winner of today’s contest will likely be tied with Bernalillo’s Spartans for first place in the 2-4A standings. The Spartans play Capital this afternoon to open their district season.
The Spartans have, by far, the best won-loss record of any team in the district. They currently boast a mark of 10-2 and have trounced most of their opponents so far.
However, Bernalillo didn’t play a particularly tough nondistrict schedule, although it did earn an impressive win against a stout Class 4A opponent in Valencia three weeks ago.
Bernalillo has rolled up 13 or more runs in eight games and has recorded three shutouts, including a 15-0 drubbing of Española Valley at a tournament in Grants — meetings between district foes during the nondistrict season don’t factor into district races.
Los Alamos and Bernalillo will meet in a doubleheader April 15 in White Rock — these games were originally scheduled for April 16.
“It will be competitive,” Anaya said of 2-4A. “The girls are ready to start district. They’re not going to fear anyone. Those teams want to beat us for the district title, but we’re not going to let it go.”
Anaya said that to be successful this season, Los Alamos will have to cut down its errors. Los Alamos committed five errors against Raton, most of which turned into runs.
The Hilltoppers’ pitching has been solid this season, with ace Monika Teter recording the majority of innings. Rachel Anaya picked up a victory last week against Albuquerque Academy.
In that game against Academy, Los Alamos’ main offensive weapon, Micaela Christensen, went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and drove in four runs. Kristin Christensen had two hits including a home run.