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Toppers close out Spartans in 6, pick up season sweep

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By Mike Cote

With one of its two biggest challengers officially dispatched, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team can turn its attention to the other.
Los Alamos erased an early two-run deficit Wednesday against the Bernalillo Spartans, then poured it on in the late innings. First baseman Steven Williams and third baseman Jake Downs both went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs as the Hilltoppers dispatched the Spartans 12-2 in six innings.
The win moves Los Alamos to 5-1 in the District 2-4A standings.
With five of its remaining games against the two bottom teams in district, Santa Fe and Capital, Los Alamos appears to be in excellent position to earn its fourth straight 2-4A title.
The main obstacle remaining for the Hilltoppers (13-6 overall) is the Española Valley Sundevils, who handed the Hilltoppers their only loss of the district season so far.
At Bomber Field Wednesday, Los Alamos scored in each of its six at-bats, pushing seven runs across in the fifth and sixth innings. Los Alamos closed out the contest early after executing a rare suicide squeeze play with Zeke Zumbro bunting home Nick Baker.
The win gave the Hilltoppers the season sweep over the Spartans (7-12, 2-5) and some confidence after dropping game two of their doubleheader with the Sundevils March 31, the last time the Hilltoppers took the field.
“It was just base hit after base hit,” Downs said. “We put pressure on them and everyone fed off those base hits.”
Downs was dropped down to the No. 9 spot in the order, but came through with a RBI infield single in the fourth and a run-and-hit single through the right side in the fifth that brought in Baker.
Baker scored three runs on the day, reaching base three times in four trips to the plate.
Los Alamos picked up its second win of the season over Bernalillo ace Thomas Duran. Duran, arguably the best pitcher in 2-4A last season, threw nearly 25 pitches in the first inning and seemed to wilt in the fourth, when he was taken out in favor of Izzy Chavarria.
But Hilltopper manager Mike Gill said his team has managed to lay off his off-speed pitches out of the strike zone and keep the ball on the ground.
“Our offensive philosophy’s pretty simple,” he said. “We get guys on any way we can, we move them over and we get those timely hits. We didn’t hit the ball that well today...but the good thing is we were able to fall back on something else. Today, that was bunting.”
Los Alamos scored the go-ahead run in the third when Jared Mang took third base on a sacrifice attempt by Thomas Russell with nobody out. Mang scored on a RBI hit from Williams one batter later.
On the mound, JD Weiss picked up his fourth district complete game win. Weiss settled down after a rough first inning and gave up just one more hit the rest of the way.
Weiss pitched his way out of a jam in the fourth. He hit Forrest McCook to open the inning and the next batter, Chavarria, reached on an error. But with those two runners in scoring position with one out, struck out two straight hitters to preserve the Hilltoppers’ 3-2 lead at the time.
While there is still six games remaining in Los Alamos’ district season – its snowed-out game with Capital last week will be made up April 27 – Los Alamos crushed Santa Fe 17-0 on the road March 28 and Capital hasn’t won a game all season.
In game two of the doubleheader with the Sundevils, the Hilltoppers went up 4-0 early, but Gill thought his hitters let up mentally at that point and that allowed the Sundevils to come back to win that contest.