WR-LA All-Stars drop regional opener

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — In the first round of the Little League Southwest Regional tournament, it looked like the White Rock-Los Alamos All-Stars were in good position to advance to the quarterfinals.
WR-LA took a solid 4-0 lead early in the ballgame and the favorites from Vidalia, La., had gotten just one ball out of the infield.
But Vidalia came back to score five unanswered runs, including the tying run in the seventh and the winning run with two outs in the eighth to take a 5-4 extra-inning victory and advance in the regional tournament Friday.
Santa Fe Metro Little League is hosting the regional this year and, as such WR-LA got an automatic entry since it was the champion of Santa Fe Metro’s district.
With Friday’s loss, WR-LA will face elimination in noontime game today. The six-team regional tournament continues through Tuesday at Bicentennial Park.
WR-LA hadn’t played a game since early July, but for most of the early part of the game looked like the sharper team. Unfortunately, WR-LA couldn’t transform its early momentum into much offense.
The only big spurt for either team on the game was WR-LA’s 4-run outburst in the top of the second — the home team of each tournament game is determined by a pre-game coin flip. However, WR-LA got just two hits in the inning, run-scoring singles by Shelby Chavez and Sarah Chiri, while taking advantage of two walks, two Vidalia errors and a hit batsman.
WR-LA scored all four of its runs with two outs in the second. The second batter of the inning, Elizabeth Anaya, reached base on an error, before Madeline Lockhart attempted to bunt Anaya over but reached base on an errant throw.
Two batters later, Morgan Hohner was hit hard on the thigh by a fastball, loading the bases. Chavez singled in Anaya and the next two batters, Megan Pimentel and Taylor Jaramillo, both drew walks, forcing home runs, before Chiri’s RBI single.
Unfortunately for WR-LA, Pimentel was thrown out trying to score on Chiri’s hit as well.
While WR-LA had to settle for a 4-0 lead, Lockhart, the starting pitcher, cruised through the first three innings against Vidalia.
In the fourth, however, Lockhart ran into trouble, walking the first two batters she faced. Both of those runners which would eventually score on wild pitches to halve WR-LA’s lead.
On the opposite side, Vidalia pitcher Elizabeth Smith settled down after a rattling second inning, one which she would’ve emerged from unscathed if not for the two errors, and allow just five more runners on-base through the next six innings, only one of which got as far as second base. Smith gave up just the two second inning hits for the complete game win.
Vidalia took on New Mexico juniors state champion Copper, from Bayard, in today’s quarterfinal round. Game results hadn’t been announced as of press time. The winner of the Vidalia-Copper game advanced to Monday’s semifinal and would be just two wins away from a trip to the Little League World Series.
By losing Friday, WR-LA’s shot at making the Little League World Series got considerably harder. WR-LA must now win five straight elimination games to pick up the regional title, including two games today. Should it win the noon game, it would come right back to play at 3 p.m., that game being a potential rematch with Vidalia.
Lockhart pitched four innings, then gave way to Hohner.
Vidalia scratched out single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth to win. Kayla Gilmore doubled and scored a run in the sixth and Cassie Gonzales tripled with two out in the eighth, scoring on a game-ending error one batter later.
Vidalia had a chance to end the game in the seventh, loading the bases with no one out on a hit, a walk and two WR-LA errors, but Chiri and Chavez both forced out runners at the plate on consecutive plays before Hohner got Gilmore to foul out to Lauren Schleft at third base.