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Baseball earns No. 12 seed in playoffs

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By Phil Scherer

After finishing the regular season with a doubleheader sweep over Capital, the Los Alamos High School baseball team heads into the State Baseball Championships as the No. 12 seed. This marks the team’s first trip to the playoffs since 2016, when the Hilltoppers advanced to the quarterfinals. 

Heading into the weekend, it appeared LAHS had a good chance to make the tournament, but losses against Capital would have hurt those chances. After struggling in the early part of the first game, the Hilltopper offense came to life, winning the first game 12-2 and the second game 10-0. 

LAHS struck first in the first game of the day, as James Neal led off the game with a walk, advanced on an error by the shortstop and scored on a sacrifice fly by Vincent Marciano, staking Hilltopper starting pitcher Luke Kirkland to an early 1-0 lead. 

The lead increased to 3-0 in the second inning as Walker Eaton and Hunter Swavely scored on a groundout by Kirkland and a triple by Luis Bojorquez. 

After Capital scored a run to cut the lead to 3-1, LAHS struck for 4 runs in the bottom of the third inning, putting the game nearly out of reach at 7-1. 

The Hilltoppers ended the game with the mercy rule in the fifth inning, striking for 4 runs to win 12-2.

With Arthur Steinkamp on the mound for LAHS in the second game, the team dominated from start to finish, putting up 4 runs in the first inning and 3 more runs in the second inning to jump out to a quick 7-0 lead. 

With the game solidly in hand, the Hilltoppers continued to pile on. Steinkamp excited the crowd in the third inning with an inside-the-park home run to score a pair of runs and extend the lead to 9-0. 

LAHS ended the game in the fourth inning as Swavely scored to give the Hilltoppers a mercy rule 10-0 win. 

Steinkamp was the star of the second game, picking up a pair of extra base hits and 3 RBI’s, as well as pitching a shutout on the mound. 

With the wins, the Hilltoppers end the regular season with a 15-10 record, and a 9-3 record in District 2-5A. The only three district losses came at the hands of district champion Albuquerque Academy. 

LAHS will now look ahead to the state tournament, where Artesia awaits this weekend in the first round. In baseball, the first round of the state playoffs are played at the home site of the higher-seeded team. It will be a three-game series, and the first team to win two games will advance to the neutral-site quarterfinals. 

Artesia, the No. 5 seed, enters the tournament with a record of 16-10, and 9-3 in District 4-5A. The 5A 2018 NMAA State Baseball Championships are seeded as follows:

1. Goddard

2. Farmington

3. St. Pius X

4. Belen

5. Artesia

6. Deming

7. Academy

8. Miyamura

9. Alamogordo

10. Santa Teresa

11. Grants

12. Los Alamos

13. Aztec

14. Kirtland Central 

15. Bloomfield

16. Roswell