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Down to its last at-bat, the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team could’ve easily packed things in against a battle-tested Kirtland Central Broncos unit.
Instead, with the game on the line, the Hilltoppers came up big.
Kiana Zerr’s lead-off double in the seventh, followed up by a pair of Kirtland Central errors and a scratch infield hit to bring home the winning run propelled the Hilltoppers to an important Class 4A victory Tuesday at Overlook Park.
Los Alamos prevailed 5-4 to earn the win over Kirtland Central, which plays in the toughest district in Class 4A and arguably the toughest district in the state regardless of classification, District 1.
Kirtland Central rallied for two runs off Los Alamos pitcher Monika Teter to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth and appeared to be well in control.
The Broncos’ Taylor Yazzie very nearly won the contest mostly through her own efforts. In the pitching circle, Yazzie held Los Alamos to one earned run through six innings, and at the plate drove in three runs and scored the fourth.
“We were really nervous, but we had to pull through,” Los Alamos shortstop Dancie Smith said. “We had to be strong for each other.”
Smith, batting in the No. 9 spot Tuesday, came through with two hits on the day and scored a run in the fourth that put Los Alamos up 3-2.
That lead looked like it might be enough to get the Hilltoppers through to the end with Teter setting down 13 of 15 batters she’d faced between the second and the sixth, but Yazzie roped a double into right-center to score pinch-runner Kendra Stock from first base. Yazzie came around to score off a base hit from Shaycie Atene later in the inning to give the Broncos their first lead since the top of the first.
But the comeback win was a big one for the Hilltoppers in many ways, not the least of which was picking up a victory over a solid competitor just five days before the Class 4A postseason seeding and selection results are announced.
Despite having four teams well above the .500 mark on the 2012 season, some around the state still view District 2 as soft and the Hilltoppers’ 11-1 district mark may not carry a lot of weight when the playoff draw is announced Sunday.
“I was kind of hoping for this kind of game,” Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said. “It’s really good for us. Going into the seventh, we knew we’ve scored more than one run when we needed to before. Right away I knew our girls were really determined. I knew we’d put some pressure on them.”
Yazzie was every bit of an equal to Teter, Los Alamos’ ace, for the contest, but struggled with her control with runners on base. She wasn’t given a lot of support by her defense, either, which kicked the ball twice in the seventh inning, including on the final play that scored Micaela Christensen from third, and five times in the game.
Zerr’s double, to straightaway center, to start the seventh inning rally, seemed to unnerve the entire Broncos’ team, which has played several nip-and-tuck contests this season against six-time state champ Piedra Vista.
“I expected a tough ballgame,” Smith said. “We couldn’t make any errors or we’d probably lose. We had a couple of mental mistakes, but we came through and pulled together.”
Piedra Vista, coincidentally, will be the Hilltoppers’ final opponent of 2012. The teams will face off in a doubleheader Friday.
Following Zerr’s double, Amiee Gutierrez sacrificed Zerr to third. She scored on a play at the plate when the throw from shortstop was misplayed to tie the game at 4-4.
With Micaela Christensen on board, Kristin Christensen reached on a scratch infield hit, moving Micaela Christensen to third with two out. The next batter, Erin Kirk, hit a hard shot to short that was booted, allowing Micaela Christensen to score the winning run.