Baseball drops heartbreaker at home to Academy

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By Phil Scherer

 All season, the Los Alamos High School baseball team has relied on strong pitching and timely hitting. Wednesday afternoon, the timely hitting was nowhere to be found as the Hilltoppers lost to Albuquerque Academy 5-4 at Bomber Field. 

This was an important district game for both teams, as Academy entered the contest with a record of 7-1 in District 2-5A, one game ahead of the Hilltoppers, who entered the game at 6-2. A win would have pulled the Hilltoppers into a tie for first place in the district. Instead, the team is now left to wonder if it has done enough to earn an at-large bid to next month’s state championship tournament. 

The opportunities were there for LAHS to take control of the game, and yet the big hit wouldn’t come to put the contest out of reach. 

The Hilltoppers’ first opportunity came in the first inning, when the team loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk before Walker Eaton flew out to the left fielder to end the inning. 

Academy also wasted early opportunities, leaving a man stranded on third base in the first inning, and two runners in scoring position in the second inning. 

LAHS got on the scoreboard in the third inning, with a little help from the Academy defense. After Arthur Steinkamp got on base with a single and advanced to second base with a walk to Vincent Marciano, Hunter Swavely attempted to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt. 

When the pitcher attempted to field the bunt, he threw the ball away, allowing Steinkamp to score and give the Hilltoppers a 1-0 lead. 

LAHS extended its lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning, as four walks brought in one run, and a single by Antonio Gonzales brought in two more runs. 

Going into the fifth inning, the Hilltoppers replaced Steinkamp on the mound with Jacob Rutten. Steinkamp pitched well across his four shutout innings, striking out five batters and allowing just one base hit. 

Rutten, however, didn’t have such positive result in his first inning on the mound, allowing 4 runs to score and making a fielding error, extending the inning. 

He worked in and out of trouble in the sixth inning, loading the bases before getting a strikeout to end the threat. 

After the Hilltoppers got Marciano to third base in the bottom of the sixth inning, he was thrown out at home by the first baseman, keeping the score tied heading into the final inning of play. 

That’s when LAHS’ luck ran out. After allowing two straight singles to begin the seventh inning, Rutten got a strikeout for the first out of the inning. Then, he intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases and set up a force out at any base.

The next batter hit a slow roller to the second baseman that initially appeared like a possible double-play ball. But it was hit too slowly, and the only possible out was at first base. He made the sure play, and the go-ahead run scored, giving Academy a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. 

It appeared LAHS still had hope when Swavely led off the inning with a double. But three straight strikeouts, by Eaton, Rutten and Sam Fisher ended the inning and the game, giving Academy a 5-4 victory. 

With the loss, the Hilltoppers drop to 6-3 in district play and 12-10 overall. The team will return to action Wednesday with a game on the road against Española Valley before finishing the regular season with a doubleheader at home against Capital.