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'Toppers, Tigers meet in softball opener

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By Mike Cote

 Not only did the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team get into the playoffs, it landed exactly where the team expected to land.
Los Alamos, an at-large hopeful going into Sunday’s release of the Class 4A state tournament bracket, got in with several slots to spare, earning a No. 12 seed in the 16-team field.
The Hilltoppers will face the Los Lunas Tigers Saturday, the team that handed Los Alamos a sound defeat in the 2012 state tournament.
Los Alamos had been ranked at the No. 12 slot in the state’s power rankings for most of the latter half of the season. In fact, other than a couple of shifts of teams to ensure they didn’t play a district foe in the opening round, the seeding for the 4A tournament went almost exactly the way the power rankings suggested it would.
Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said he felt very confident about his team’s moving on to the tournament and his practices last week and this week have been focused on improving the things his team will have to do well in order to survive.
“We’re just fine-tuning our defensive stuff,” Anaya said. “We’re making sure we’re ready for small-ball. That’s what they did when we played them before.”
The state tournament consists of a single-elimination game in the first round, followed by a double-elimination format starting in the quarterfinals – should inclement weather hamper the tournament, the loser’s bracket games will be dropped.
Teams will play first-round games this weekend and the winners will advance to the quarterfinals starting May 16.
Los Alamos will face Los Lunas at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Tigers (19-7) finished as the runner-up in a very competitive District 6 race this season, going 7-3 in district play. The Tigers are one of four District 6 teams to make the field.
Early on in the season, Los Lunas actually held the No. 1 spot in the state’s power rankings and didn’t lose to a team from New Mexico until the district season.
Piedra Vista, the 7-time defending 4A champ which has shown few signs of slowing down, was the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament and will play 16th seed Roswell to open.
The Hilltoppers (14-11), meanwhile, finished as the runner-up in District 2 and one of just two teams to advance to the playoffs. The Bernalillo Spartans, who lost just one game all season, that to Los Alamos, weren’t afforded a ton of respect despite dropping just the one contest, landing at the No. 7 spot in the 4A bracket.
Anaya said he was hoping Santa Fe would squeeze into the playoffs, but thinks an early season loss to No. 14 Goddard probably dashed the Demons’ hopes.
Going into the tournament, Los Alamos won 10 of 12 contests, with both those losses coming at the hands of Bernalillo after starting the season just 4-9.
Anaya said his team is playing good ball right now and likes his chances of advancing.
“We’re happy to have the opportunity,” he said. “I think we can play with any team out there. We’ve played good defense and we need to continue to play good defense to stay in the tournament.”
Class 4A Schedule

First round

Single elimination, games are Saturday unless otherwise noted

(16) Roswell at (1) Piedra Vista, 11 a.m.
(9) Miyamura at (8) St. Pius X, 11 a.m.
(12) Los Alamos at (5) Los Lunas, 11 a.m.
(13) Deming at (4) Aztec, 11 a.m.
(14) Goddard at (3) Gallup, 11 a.m.
(11) Farmington at (6) Valencia, 1 p.m.
(10) Centennial at (7) Bernalillo, 5 p.m. Friday
(15) Del Norte at (2) Artesia, 5:30 p.m. Friday

Quarterfinals

8 a.m. May 16 (all games at Cleveland High School)

Roswell-Piedra Vista winner vs. Miyamura-St. Pius winner
Los Alamos-Los Lunas winner vs. Deming-Aztec winner
Goddard-Gallup winner vs. Farmington-Valencia winner
Centennial-Bernalillo winner vs. Del Norte-Artesia winner