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ESPAÑOLA — With one crack of the bat, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team busted open what early on appeared to be another tight ballgame between it and arch-rival Española Valley.
Hilltopper first baseman Steven Williams belted a grand slam home run over the wall in left-center during the top of the second inning. Williams’ blast helped propel the Hilltoppers to their fifth consecutive District 2-4A title.
Los Alamos routed Española Valley’s Sundevils in the opener of the two-game set in the valley, 17-3, then prevailed in the second game, 7-3.
The win in the opener clinched the 2013 district title for Los Alamos (16-9), which has just one game remaining on its schedule, that coming Wednesday against lowly Capital.
Los Alamos skipper Mike Gill has steered the team through all five straight district titles. He said the Hilltoppers, who were hungry for another district title all season long, didn’t panic after a big bottom of the first inning by the Sundevils.
“Our goal is to win each inning,” Gill said. “They scored three, but we still won the inning. Whether you win it by four runs or by one run, it’s still a win.”
Game one had all the earmarks of a slugfest. Los Alamos scored four times in the top of the first, keeping its pattern of big opening innings going, but Española Valley came right back with three runs in the home half, with catcher Jesus Chavez blasting a two-run shot off Hilltopper starting pitcher Jake Downs.
Williams, however, crushed his grand slam to a nearly identical spot as Chavez’s homer the inning before.
It was the second time in two games the Sundevils elected to walk No. 3 hitter in the batting order, Jared Mang, to throw to Williams, and both times Williams made them pay. In their previous game, Mang was given a free pass in the bottom of the seventh inning and Williams came through, roping a double to right-center off the same Sundevil pitcher, Danny Martinez, for a walk-off win earlier this month.
Downs, who went four innings, earned the win for Los Alamos. Williams closed out the game in the fifth inning.
In game two, Los Alamos again jumped out to an early lead, going up 3-0 after two innings, and answering a pair of Sundevil third inning runs with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
Hilltopper center fielder Collin Kitts said the Hilltopper hitters knew what to expect out of the Sundevil pitching staff going into Saturday’s games.
“We were mainly seeing the fastball,” said Kitts, who was coming back Saturday after getting hit in the hand a week earlier against Capital. “We just had to get the ball in play and get baserunners on.”