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Softball: Toppers thumped at home

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By Mike Cote

If nothing else Tuesday, Los Alamos got a glimpse of what it will have to do to compete at a high level in Class AAAA.The Hilltopper softball team was whacked in their home opener by the Belen Eagles Tuesday. Belen pushed eight runs across in a 20-minute fourth inning, sending 12 hitters to the plate to break open the game. The Eagles won 18-1 in five innings.Los Alamos committed eight errors in the game, most of which Belen capitalized on.Hilltopper manager Randy Burditt could do little more than shake his head following the game, in which ace pitcher Ashley Merhege had decent stuff. Against a very good top-to-bottom order, however, Merhege saw several pitches go right back up the box into center field.Of course, the eight errors didn’t help much.“She had no support out there,” Burditt said of Merhege. “She had a couple of wild spots with her, but it wasn’t her pitching that did us in.”The Eagles scored 13 runs in the fourth and fifth innings on just eight hits, but were given six free outs by the Hilltoppers.Los Alamos scored its only run of the game in the third, on Belen’s only error of the game, an errant throw from pitcher Catherine Baca, who otherwise had a stellar outing. Baca’s throwing error on what would’ve been the third out of the inning on a comebacker, allowed Hilltopper center fielder Megan Burditt to come around.Baca still earned the complete game win, scattering six hits and striking out nine.“We call her ‘The Cat,’” Belen manager Ken Zamora said of his hurler. “She pitched a solid game and the defense behind her held tough.”Belen (6-1) will be one of the teams to watch this season coming out of a very good District 5AAAA.Merhege was the only Hilltopper with multiple hits Tuesday, going 2-for-2 with a double in the first inning.Los Alamos will host a tournament Friday which includes Santa Fe Indian School and Sandia Prep. The tournament continues through Saturday.