LA comes through in tough contest vs. Hope

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By Mike Cote

For the past two games, the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team has had trouble putting runs on the board, so Los Alamos manager Mike Gill thought it was time to shake things up.
His moves paid dividends Wednesday.
Los Alamos hosted the defending Class 3A champion Hope Christian Huskies at Bomber Field, its second game in two days against a potential state champion threat.
It was Los Alamos’ first appearance at home and its only home game until April.
The Hilltoppers won’t be at home again until they face Bernalillo April 2 to open district play.
The Hilltoppers took control of a tight contest in the third inning, scoring three runs, then did enough damage control in the top of the sixth to earn a 4-3 win.
Against Class 5A Atrisco Heritage Saturday, Los Alamos escaped with a 1-0 victory, then was held to just three runs, while its lineup fanned nine times in a loss Tuesday to Albuquerque Academy.
That type of run production wasn’t going to do, Gill said.
“You look at our last couple of scores…we’ve been struggling offensively,” he said. “We kind of mixed it up today with the lineup, with this and that, and the kids came through. We didn’t get a lot of hits, but we got the ones that mattered.”
One of those hits that mattered came in the third inning.
Catcher Trevor Pacheco, who moved up from the bottom of the batting order all the way to the No. 5 spot, doubled down the right field line to drive in a pair of runs.
Pacheco had a big game at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a second inning single, coming around to score for the first Hilltopper run of the game.
His third inning double drove in Jared Mang and Jake Downs. Los Alamos put three straight batters on to start the inning, with Downs singling in Connor Mang one pitch after Mang stole third base.
Los Alamos’ three runs in the inning gave it a 4-1 lead at the time.
Pacheco said he was looking fastball early in the count against Hope starting pitcher Neppy Saavedra.
Saavedra had decent velocity on his fastball but Los Alamos’ hitters felt they could sit on it and get the bat on it.
The hits early helped the Hilltoppers settle down at the plate.
“We actually felt pretty good,” Pacheco said. “We’ve progressed so much. It used to be just 1 through 4 that was hitting, now we almost have a whole team hitting. That feels really good on the offensive side.”
It wasn’t all good news for the Hilltopper offense, though, which stranded six runners in the second through fourth innings.
The Hilltoppers finished with 6 hits against three Hope pitchers.
On the mound Wednesday, pitcher Connor Mang put together one of his best performances of the young season.
Mang, who battled through five tough innings in a loss Friday to St. Pius X, kept Hope quiet for most of the game Wednesday.
He escaped major damage in the second inning, limiting the Huskies (2-1) to just one run after a lead-off double from Kyle Howell.
The Huskies only got two other runners aboard until the sixth inning, but a 1-out double followed by a pair of walks loaded the bases.
Mang looked like he might get out of the inning unscathed, however, forcing Stone Romero to ground to shortstop for a potential double play, but the relay throw was low and got past first baseman Lane Saunders, allowing two runs to score.
To end the game and pick up the complete game win, however, Mang set down the Huskies in order in the top of the seventh, including punching out Saavedra looking to end it.
For the game, Mang struck out seven batters and had complete command of his breaking pitches, which stymied the Huskies most of the way. Pacheco said afterward Mang didn’t seem to be losing any velocity off his fastball, even in the seventh inning.
Hope was limited to just three hits Wednesday, although two of those were doubles.
At the plate for Los Alamos, Jared Mang, who moved up from the 3-hole to the 2-hole, had two hits as well. He doubled in the first and singled in the fourth.
“That’s our strength this year, pitching and defense, and we knew that, but we’ve got to score some runs,” Gill said. “That can be your strength, but you’ve still got to score to win.”
Gill said he still thinks the Hilltoppers’ mechanics are a little off at the plate right now, particularly using their hands, but it will be something the team will work on for the next week before they face another very tough opponent, Los Lunas, on Tuesday.