LA tops Española Valley; can win 2-5A title Saturday

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By The Staff

A crazy play finished off a crazy game between Los Alamos and Espanola Valley in their battle for the top spot in District 2-5A softball.
With Los Alamos down by two and down to its last out, the team came up with three runs to knock off Espanola Valley’s Sundevils 10-9 at Overlook Park Wednesday.
Espanola Valley, which had never trailed in the game until the final play, made two critical errors at the close of the seventh inning that allowed those three Hilltopper runs to score and give them the ballgame.
On the game’s final play, Hilltopper center fielder Alicia Gonzales hit a long fly ball to deep left field. Sundevil left-fielder Sidnee Pollard, who had been rock-solid defensively during the three-game series between the two teams, misplayed the fly ball that she normally would’ve caught, and the ball hit the ground.
That miscue allowed both pinch-runner Shelby Milligan and Janessa Gonzales to score the game-winning runs.
With that play, and a bizarre play one batter earlier, also involving Milligan that led to a run, the Hilltoppers managed to secure the lead in the district standings outright and are now just one game away from clinching the 2017 district title.
The Hilltoppers (15-8 overall, 9-1 in 2-5A) need to take just one of two from the Capital Jaguars in their season-ending doubleheader Saturday to pick up their first title since 2012.
Game one of that doubleheader starts at 11 a.m. Saturday in Santa Fe.
As for Espanola Valley (13-11, 8-2), it’s in danger of missing out on the Class 5A playoffs entirely. The Sundevils didn’t have a great nondistrict season, and their statewide ranking – 15th heading into this week’s play – doesn’t appear to be enough to afford them an at-large bid.
The Sundevils struck first in the contest, coming up with three runs in the top of the first inning, an inning that was somewhat reminiscent of their start in the second game between the two April 8.
Wednesday, the Sundevils sent seven batters to the plate in that top of the first, with shortstop Marina Padilla driving in two runs with a base hit.
The Sundevils would tack on three more runs in the third to take a 6-2 lead at the time, but the Hilltoppers bounced back in the bottom of the third to score three runs of their own and get right back in the game.
Both teams’ offenses have been exceptionally productive during the district season, and they were both on-point Wednesday. Los Alamos came up with 17 hits in the game, including five for extra bases, while the Sundevils hit a pair of home runs, the second, which came off the bat of Alexia Garcia, put the Sundevils in a position to win the game late.
The Hilltoppers put two runners on base to start the bottom of the sixth, but left them stranded. Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, in the top of the seventh they were able to return the favor.
Reyna Lucero, Los Alamos’ pitcher, who won game one of the three games between the two, had to pitch around a hit and an error to start the inning. The next batter, designated hitter Leah Lujan, hit a liner right at second baseman Taylor Collins, who speared it and doubled-off Alyssa Aguilar on second, one of numerous base-running errors made by both teams.
Lucero gave up nine hits Wednesday. She struck out 5 batters to pick up the win.
Offensively, Mariah Mauro finished 3-for-4 for Los Alamos and drove in two runs, and Lauren Harris was 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Harris also had a big defensive showing from her shortstop position.
On the defensive side, Los Alamos was shaky, however, committing four errors in the contest. The Sundevils’ defense had been perfect until the seventh inning when it committed the two errors that would ultimately cost them the contest.