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To say that the Four Corners area is like a home away from home for the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team is something of an understatement.
Los Alamos will play nearly as many games this season in the Farmington area as it will in White Rock, starting with a tournament this weekend.
But first up for the Hilltoppers, as they officially get going on their 2012 season, is a road game this afternoon at Belen.
“We’re ready to go for the season,” said Los Alamos fourth-year manager Roger Anaya. “We don’t know what to expect out of Belen. They play in a very competitive district with Valencia and Moriarty…but it’ll be interesting to see how we do. They’re excited to get the season going.”
Following this afternoon’s game, Los Alamos will head to a tournament hosted by six-time 4A champ Piedra Vista. In mid-March, Los Alamos will return to the Four Corners for a tournament at Aztec.
In all, the Hilltoppers will play no fewer than seven games in the Four Corners, compared to nine scheduled home games, just three of them scheduled prior to the start of District 2-4A.
Los Alamos has several players returning from last season, but several of those are underclassmen. There is almost an even split between seniors, juniors and sophomores.
The Hilltopper junior varsity had an impressive 2011 season and as many as six sophomores could see action on the varsity squad this season.
Sophomores Emilee Jones, Alyssa Mojica and Kiana Zerr will join the Los Alamos pitching staff, with perhaps all of them seeing time at this weekend’s tournament.
Los Alamos’ backbone for the past several seasons has been its pitching staff, anchored by Monika Teter.
Teter, a senior, has been the Hilltoppers’ ace since her freshman year, although she won’t join the team until the conclusion of basketball season. In 2011, Teter finished with a record of 11-8.
Last season, Los Alamos went 15-12, going 10-2 in 2-4A play to claim its second consecutive district title. It advanced to the Class 4A tournament but was knocked out in the opening round by Del Norte, 5-4 in extra innings.
There’s a change in the playoff format this season. Instead of all qualifiers advancing to the main tournament bracket, this year there will be first-round home games for top-seeded finishers. While Anaya said he likes the format change, he said it’s critical to get some wins in the nondistrict season along with having a good run during the district season.
Los Alamos lost just one player off last year’s team, although that player was a key one. Tina Radosevich, one of the team’s anchors both offensively and defensively in 2011 at shortstop.
The Hilltoppers’ top offensive player, Micaela Christensen, has been working out this preseason at shortstop along with junior Dancie Smith. Emily Lucero has worked out at the catcher spot, where Christensen has been for the past two years.
Kristin Christensen, Micaela’s cousin, is penciled in to take over the leadoff spot in the batting order, with second baseman Aimee Gutierrez batting second, Micaela Christensen in her usual three-hole, followed by cleanup hitter Lucero.
This preseason, however, the focus has been on defense, which has been a weak spot for the Hilltoppers for several seasons.
“We’re going to continue to make all the routine plays,” Anaya said. “But now we’re going to ask them to make those difficult plays, too.”
Los Alamos’ first home game of the season is set for March 6 against Los Lunas. District play is scheduled to start March 31 against Española Valley.