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LAHS baseball drops final non-district contest

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By Phil Scherer

Throughout the first half of the season, the strengths of the Los Alamos High School baseball team have been consistent pitching and a resilient offensive attack. In Friday afternoon’s home opener against Aztec, both of those skills were on display at times. Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, though, the Tigers proved to be even more resilient, rallying from three runs down to spoil LAHS’ Bomber Field debut with a 7-6 victory.

The Hilltoppers entered the game on a six-game winning streak, including a come from behind victory against Moriarty in the team’s district opener. 

Early on in the home opener, the ball appeared to be bouncing in LAHS’ direction, as catcher Luke Kirkland threw out a pair of would-be base stealers in the first two innings, first erasing a single by Aztec leadoff man Zack Taylor and later erasing a walk to pitcher Carson Adcock. 

The Hilltoppers seized the opportunity, jumping on top in the first inning. Arthur Steinkamp, LAHS’ starting pitching, laid down a perfect bunt in front of the plate and beat the throw to first base to set up a rally. He advanced to second base on a fielder’s choice and went to third base on a wild pitch. 

Hunter Swavely drove him in with a key two-out single. He also ended the rally, though, as he was caught off first base by the right fielder, who quickly got the ball back into the infield for the out. 

LAHS maintained that 1-0 lead into the third inning, when Aztec put together a two-run rally. The first three batters of the inning reached base on a pair of singles and an error, allowing both runs to score. 

Hilltopper right fielder Sam Fisher limited the damage, though, as he caught a fly ball for the first out of the inning and fired a strike to the plate, allowing Kirkland to apply the tag and record the second out. 

Trailing for the first time in the game, LAHS came up with an answer in the bottom of the fourth inning. Tyler Neal led off the inning with a single and Walker Eaton followed with a walk. Fisher also singled to drive in the tying run. 

Following a strikeout by Kirkland, the next three batters, Caden Thornton, James Neal and Steinkamp all drove in runs to put the Hilltoppers on top 5-2 heading into the fifth inning. 

Aztec remained resilient, though, answering back with four runs of their own in the sixth inning to jump back on top, 6-5. 

The Tigers placed five consecutive batters on base at one point, keeping the basepaths active and placing pressure on the Hilltoppers, allowing them to take full advantage. 

Despite giving up a lead for the second time, LAHS never gave up. Terp led off the next inning with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Steinkamp also singled to move him over to third base, and he scored on an error by the Aztec pitcher, tying the game 6-6. 

Again, Aztec had the answer. 

Much like the previous inning, Chad Hill got things started with a single and he quickly scored, as Derek Jung drove him in to put Aztec back on top 7-6, this time for good. 

Trailing for the third time, the Hilltoppers struggled to get anything going in the bottom of the seventh. 

The first two batters went down quickly, and Fisher appeared to end the game with a strikeout, but advanced to first base on a wild pitch. The threat quickly ended, though, as Kirkland grounded out to the shortstop to end the game. 

It was LAHS’ first loss in nearly two weeks, stopping the team’s impressive six-game win streak prior to the grind of district play, which will go into early May. The team’s record drops to 9-6 overall. 

This weekend, LAHS will travel to Taos for a doubleheader Saturday, with games at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.