Baseball: LA one step closer to title

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By Mike Cote

Senior Zakk Walterscheid has never known a District 2AAAA baseball championship.

But Wednesday, he was determined to help the Los Alamos Hilltoppers get there.

Walterscheid threw a six inning complete game Wednesday against Española Valley and hit a pair of home runs as the Hilltoppers routed the Sundevils 13-3 at Bomber Field.

“Dubs,” as he’s known in the Los Alamos dugout, hit a towering two-run blast to straightaway right field in the first inning, then added a solo shot to lead off the fifth inning, his third and fourth homers of the season, to help get the Hilltoppers to within one game of clinching their first district title since 1998 when it was still in Class AAA.

On the mound, Walterscheid threw 90 pitches through the six innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run.

His mission on the mound was somewhat complicated because the home plate umpire wasn’t calling strikes for pitches that were much below mid-thigh Wednesday, but Walterscheid, who throws a good mix of hard stuff and breaking pitches, was able to get through it.

“Every game, you’ve got to throw what’s getting called,” he said. “Complaining about it’s not going to get the job done. You’ve got to adjust.”

He took the victory over Española Valley’s James Flores, a pitcher against whom Los Alamos struggled in the first game of a doubleheader April 11.

While Flores got knocked around for three home runs — Zach Mang had a two-run shot in the second inning — Española Valley’s defense didn’t do Flores any favors in the contest, committing eight total errors, four of them in Los Alamos’ four-run fifth inning.

Los Alamos’ defense didn’t have one of its better showings Wednesday either, booting the ball four times, twice in the second inning. Hilltopper manager Mike Gill said he was breathing a sigh of relief the Sundevils didn’t put up a bigger number than two in the second.

“We had a bad inning, that was it,” he said. “We played pretty calm after that.”

With Wednesday’s victory, Los Alamos’ magic number for clinching the 2AAAA title falls to one. Los Alamos (13-10 overall, 9-1 in 2AAAA), which clinched a postseason appearance with its win Monday, needs to beat the struggling Capital Jaguars just once in their two-game set Saturday to grab the district championship.

The Sundevils (10-13 overall, 5-5 in 2AAAA) are in third place in the 2AAAA standings and will be eliminated from picking up an automatic bid with one more win by Bernalillo.

Los Alamos pounded out 12 hits Wednesday against Española Valley and scored in every inning but the fourth.

Hilltopper shortstop Jack Russell went 3-for-4 in the ballgame, scoring a pair of runs and driving in a pair of runs. Right fielder Ryan Schleft was 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored and second baseman Adam Eberhart scored a pair of runs and knocked in a run with a second inning bloop double.

Jon Thoma had a multi-RBI game for Los Alamos as well, driving in two runs with a single in the fifth.

“It’s been nice to have offense behind you and have a big lead when you’re pitching,” Walterscheid said. “If you just stay patient, the hits will come.”