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Hilltoppers end district play with sweep

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By Phil Scherer

Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader against Capital, the Los Alamos High School softball team had already clinched the District 2-5A championship, and was only playing for positioning in next week’s state championship playoffs. 

With a sweep over the Jaguars, the Hilltoppers did what they could to improve positioning, and now wait to see who they will be facing in the first round of the tournament. 

Both games were tight, tense contests that came down to the final inning, but the Hilltoppers found a way to escape with an 8-7 win in the first game, and a 16-13 win in the second game. 

The LAHS offense started out hot in the first game, striking for 5 runs in the first two innings to take a commanding lead. 

However, starting pitcher Savana Luster, who pitched very well over the first three innings, started to run out of gas in the fourth inning and lost some of her control, putting multiple runners on base. The Jaguars took full advantage, striking for 4 runs in the inning to tie the score 5-5 and force LAHS head coach Randy Burditt to make a pitching change, bringing Reyna Lucero into the game. 

After she was able to finish the inning strong, the Hilltoppers jumped back on top, as Jayde Tucker hit an inside the park home run and Jordan Jaramillo followed up with a booming home run of her own. 

Tucker’s home run started as a hard ground ball up the middle, but as it got past the mound it ricocheted off of second base and into the right field corner. By the time the right fielder collected the ball and got it back into the infield, Tucker was sliding safely into home plate. With the home runs, LAHS led 7-5. 

Leading 8-5 in the seventh inning, the Hilltoppers got into more trouble. After loading the bases and giving up a run with two outs, Capital’s most dangerous hitter, Marley Cardenas, came to the plate. Not wanting to give her an opportunity to give the Jaguars the lead, Burditt opted to intentionally walk Cardenas, forcing in a run to make the score 8-7. 

The gamble paid off, though, as the next batter struck out to end the ballgame and give LAHS an 8-7 victory. 

Offense was even more on display in the second game, as both teams were short on pitchers. The Hilltoppers scored in every inning against starting pitcher Arianna Almeida, who was forced to pitch the compete game. 

LAHS continued to put on a power show, as Tucker, Alicia Gonzales and Claire Bluhm connected on home runs. 

The Hilltoppers led 11-3 heading into the fifth inning, and appeared to be on the verge of winning by the mercy rule. But Capital refused to go away, striking for 3 runs to make the score 11-6. 

LAHS answered back with 3 runs of its own in the bottom of the inning, but again Capital scored 3 runs to keep the game close. 

After the Hilltoppers scored 4 runs to make the score 16-9 going into the top of the seventh inning, Capital threatened, scoring 4 runs, but got no closer as the Hilltoppers won 16-13. 

With the wins, LAHS finishes the regular season with an 18-8 record, going 11-1 in District 2-5A. Selections for the playoffs will be revealed Sunday afternoon. All games in the playoffs are played at a neutral site. In the latest coaches’ poll, the Hilltoppers are No. 10 in Class 5A, and have been for three weeks.