LAHS baseball earns No. 7 seed at state

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By Phil Scherer

Following an outstanding regular season, the Los Alamos High School baseball team will play host to Los Lunas in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament Friday and Saturday. 

The Hilltoppers earned the No. 7 seed in the Class 4A tournament, while Los Lunas earned the No. 10 seed. First-round games take place at the home of the higher seed, while later rounds take place at various sites around Albuquerque. 

LAHS earned the right to host a first round game in part because of a strong finish to the regular season, which saw the Hilltoppers finish 19-7 overall, and 11-1 in District 2-4A. The team’s only district loss came in 11 innings on the road against Taos, which finished at the district runner-up. 

A strong pitching staff has led the Hilltoppers all season, and the dominance on the mound was even more impressive in district play. In 12 district games, LAHS allowed opponents to score a total of 22 runs, an average of less than two runs per game. Across the entire 26 game season, LAHS allowed 3.5 runs per game, one of the top marks in the entire state. 

Arthur Steinkamp and Antonio Gonzales have shouldered the starting pitching load, and have continued to get stronger as the season moves along. 

Luke Kirkland, Grant Watkins and Taylor Drake have also made strong impacts, performing well in spot starts or in relief. 

The Hilltopper offense has also been a strength this season, with the team’s ability to string together hits and run the bases well leading to more than seven runs per game. 

Steinkamp and Gonzales are also strong on the offensive side of the game, though the team’s greatest offensive strength is its lineup depth. 

Walker Eaton, James Neal, Tyler Neal, Hunter Swavely and Grant Watkins have all shined at the plate at times this season, making the lineup very tough for an opponent to face. 

Los Lunas will have a good chance, though, as the Tigers are also one of the top pitching teams in the state, meaning there could be some low scores in this first round matchup. 

The Tigers played only 20 games this season, allowing an average of just over three runs per game. Los Lunas finished with an overall record of 13-7, and the team went 3-5 in District 5-4A. 

It was an incredibly strong district, though. All five teams qualified for the state tournament. 

Before district play began, Los Lunas went 10-2 and dominated several opponents. 

The first round will be a best two out of three series, with the winner advancing to face the winner of the series between No. 2 seeded Goddard and No. 15 seeded Hope Christian. 

LAHS’ first round series will begin at 4 p.m. Friday at Bomber Field. Game two of the series will be at 11 a.m. Saturday. 

If the two teams split the first two games, there will be a third game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals. 

The following teams advanced to the Class 4A state baseball tournament:

No. 1 St. Pius

No. 2 Goddard

No. 3 Artesia

No. 4 Aztec

No. 5 Albuquerque Academy

No. 6 Santa Teresa

No. 7 Los Alamos

No. 8 Valley

No. 9 Belen

No. 10 Los Lunas

No. 11 Kirtland Central

No. 12 Miyamura

No. 13 Grants

No. 14 Valencia

No. 15 Hope Christian

No. 16 Bloomfield