Baseball: Toppers fall at home to Tigers, 13-3

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By Mike Cote

The Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team lost its third game to open the 2011 season Tuesday at Bomber Field.
Los Alamos gave up seven runs in a costly second inning in its home opener Tuesday, falling to the Class 4A Los Lunas Tigers 13-3 in five innings.
The Hilltoppers were held scoreless through their first five at-bats against Los Lunas, with Tiger pitcher Pat Martinez keeping their lineup off-balance. The Hilltoppers’ only damage at the plate against Martinez came in their final at-bat, trying to stave off an early exit.
In the bottom of the fifth, down 13-0, Los Alamos plated three runs, all coming with two outs, to knock the Los Lunas advantage down to 10 runs. Following catcher Jared Mang’s two-run base hit in the fifth, however, Los Alamos couldn’t find another hit to keep the game going.
The Hilltoppers opened their 2011 season Saturday at Piedra Vista, the defending Class 4A champion. Piedra Vista swept both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, winning 14-0 and 5-3 in Farmington.
Against Los Lunas, a team which didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season but has a junior-heavy roster which swings some good stick, Los Alamos used four different pitchers in the five innings. Billy Cooper started the game. He was relieved after one-plus innings and four runs allowed by Zeke Zumbro, who made it through the second inning but would come out in the third before recording an out.
Also appearing on the mound for the Hilltoppers were Henry Steinkamp, who threw two innings and JD Weiss, who completed the fifth, the only pitcher to finish his time on the mound without allowing a score.
For Los Lunas (1-0), Martinez belted a triple to start the big second inning rally, which was kept going by two errors and a misplayed sacrifice bunt attempt. Martinez and center fielder Jason Gonzales also came up with run-scoring extra-base hits during the contest.
The Hilltoppers (0-3), who muddled their way through a killer nondistrict schedule last season to win the District 2AAAA title, have another competitive early season schedule in 2011. They will also face St. Pius X and Moriarty this month before their 2AAAA opener April 6.
Los Alamos, which lost pitchers Scott Berkebile, Ryan Schleft and Lucas Coker to graduation, will be looking to find replacements before the start of the district season.
Michael Young, a promising young catcher, moved out of the school district. Young’s replacement, Mang, is an eighth grader but is a fast-emerging talent that could make an impact for Los Alamos this season.
The Hilltoppers feature only three seniors, Cooper, Eric Neff and Jordan Sandoval, and a slew of juniors on their roster. Most of the team’s juniors have limited varsity experience.
Los Alamos finished the 2010 season with a mark of 12-12, winning the district title, going 11-1 in 2AAAA play, before being knocked out of the state Class 4A playoffs in the first round by Albuquerque Academy.
The Hilltoppers are once again led by manager Mike Gill, now in his seventh season.