'Toppers fall to Rockets 4-1

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By Mike Cote



RIO RANCHO – There were some big plays made in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs.

But, unfortunately for the Los Alamos Hilltoppers, it was the Goddard Rockets that made most of them.

Goddard hit two solo home runs Thursday afternoon, one over the fence and one inside the park, while pitcher John Wagner threw a gem to earn the win.

Goddard scored twice in the bottom of the first and had the two home runs in the third and the fifth. While it wasn’t a lot, it was enough for the Rockets to earn a 4-1 victory over the Hilltoppers at Cleveland High School.

That ends the Hilltoppers’ 2014 season. They finish with a record of 22-7.

Wagner dealt some nasty breaking pitches throughout the contest, but he had to be near-spot on against a tough Los Alamos lineup, which was one of the top run-scoring teams in 4A this season.

He and Los Alamos starting pitcher Jared Mang had a battle going through most of the contest. Wagner put down nine of 10 Hilltopper batters at one point between the third and seventh innings, while Mang, for his part, allowed just five hits.

But the Rockets, who took some big cuts throughout the contest, made those hits count. Along with the home runs by Wagner and Tommy Perea, Perea roped a double into left-center in the first inning and came around to score on a RBI single by Cody French later in the inning.

Los Alamos was the No. 7 seed in the Class 4A playoffs but was considered one of the potential dark horses in the tournament with its mix of offensive punch and quality pitching, not to mention a remaining playoff field comprised almost exclusively of teams it was familiar with.
But Goddard, which ended the regular season with a 4A-best 22 wins, was able to limit the damage in what could’ve been a big first inning for Los Alamos and make some big defensive plays to erase some other potential threats.

One of the big plays of the game was a throw out at second base by Rocket catcher Tayrn Nuñez, catching Trevor Pacheco off the base following his base hit and a balk by Wagner. Nuñez threw a bullet to second to erase Pacheco, who represented an important run early in the ballgame.

Connor Mang had two hits in Thursday’s ballgame and scored the Hilltoppers’ lone run on a RBI groundout by his brother in the first inning.

Los Alamos managed just four hits in the game off Wagner, who struck out four batters.

With its win, the Goddard Rockets will advance to take on the Farmington Scorpions in today’s semifinal round. Farmington topped defending Class 4A champion St. Pius X to advance to the semis.

The 4A tournament wraps up Saturday afternoon. Today’s semifinal winners will play at Isotopes park at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The game was the finale in the careers of three Hilltopper seniors, Dallon Burnside, Jake Downs and Jared George.