Softball: Toppers drop a pair at home vs. Spartans

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By Mike Cote

Things got considerably more interesting for the Los Alamos Hilltopper softball team Saturday. And not in a good way.

The District 2AAAA softball race for second place got a lot tighter Saturday, with the third-place Bernalillo Spartans sweeping a doubleheader at Overlook Park.

The two wins by the Spartans propel them a half-game ahead of the Hilltoppers in second place. Both teams trail Española Valley, which was idle Saturday.

With just three games left to play, Los Alamos also loses the tiebreaker to Bernalillo by virtue of having won two of three contests in district play.

The two teams played twice earlier in the season — only one of those games counted in the 2AAAA standings — and both were won by Los Alamos by a combined three runs.

In game one Saturday, the Spartans came back from a 2-0 deficit after four innings to take a 3-2 extra-inning decision. In the second game, Bernalillo jumped out to a 7-0 lead just an inning-and-a-half in and withstood a big second inning Hilltopper rally to win 8-4.

“I knew they were going to be tough, no question about it,” Los Alamos manager Roger Anaya said. “I thought we were ready. We’d played a lot of games with no errors, but (Saturday) we made a few. It put a lot of pressure on our pitchers.”

In the first game, Bernalillo’s Emily Rodriguez scored from second on two pitches that went to the backstop in the top of the eight. The Hilltoppers couldn’t counter Rodriguez’s run in the bottom of the inning.

The game went into tiebreak rules. Each team starts each inning after the seventh with a runner on second base. Rodriguez would’ve scored later in the top of the eighth on a single from Claudia Delana without the passed ball and wild pitch.

In the bottom of the eighth, Shelby Courtright was sacrificed to third by Micaela Christensen with one out, but Courtright would be stranded there. Nyleen Cook hit a hard line drive toward first base, but Bernalillo first baseman Alyssa McCully speared it backhanded for the final out of the game.

It was a tough loss for Hilltopper hurler Monika Teter, who didn’t give up an earned run in the ballgame.

Teter, a freshman who established herself as the ace of pitching staff early in the season, didn’t have the tidiest outing of her season in game one, but pitched her way out of some deep jams, particularly in the top of the fourth.

In that inning, the Spartans had runners on second and third with one out and the Hilltoppers clinging to a 1-0 edge. But Teter was able to pitch around the two errors early in the inning, fanning the next two batters to preserve the Hilltopper lead.

She finished the contest allowing just two hits in the eight innings — she had a no-hit bid going until the fifth. She struck out 17 batters, fanning seven hitters in a row at one point, and walked four.

Rodriguez had an impressive outing for Bernalillo to counter Teter, however, allowing just one earned run to pick up the complete-game win.

After issuing a lead-off walk to Yvette Padilla in the bottom of the seventh with the scored knotted at 2-2, but struck out the next two batters and got Courtright to line out to the shortstop to leave Padilla stranded on second base.

Rodriguez scattered four hits through the eight innings, striking out 10 and walking just two. For its part, Los Alamos left seven runner stranded on base in the game, four of them in scoring position.

Anaya, who saw his team get into trouble in the nondistrict season by leaving runners on base at the end of innings, was hoping the Hilltoppers could knock in the big runs Saturday when they needed them.

“We had opportunities, sometimes with one out, sometimes with no outs,” he said. “We couldn’t get it through. Overall, we hit the ball well, especially in the second game…but it just wasn’t happening.”

In game two, the Spartans scored three times in the first inning and four times in the second inning to take a big early advantage that the Hilltoppers were never able to overcome.

Bernalillo pounded out three hits in the first inning off starting pitcher Stephanie Abney and might have scored a bunch more if not for a diving stop on a hot ground ball by second baseman Shauni Williams for the second out of the inning, that coming off the bat of Justine Archuleta.

After Bernalillo’s big second inning — a Hilltopper error midway through the inning allowed two Spartan runs to score ­— Los Alamos got back into the game in the bottom of the second.

Following a RBI fielder’s choice from Kristina Radosevich, Brianna Radosevich crushed a fastball into straightway left for a 2-run home run to make the score 7-4.

Los Alamos would threaten again in the fifth and seventh innings, but would never get back to within striking distance.

Abney settled down after the first two innings and pitched a complete game in taking the loss.

Bernalillo manager Manuel Montaño couldn’t have been much happier with his team, which has battled back from a rough opening part of the season — the Spartans (10-7 overall, 6-2 in 2AAAA) lost four of their first six in 2009 — to become a major factor in the 2AAAA race.

“We’ve got to make the girls understand we’re playing one game at a time,” Montaño said. “They did a great job (Saturday). We got game one, in the second game we just stayed focused.”

Bernalillo still has two games left with Española Valley at Bernalillo and a game with Taos remaining on its district schedule, while Los Alamos faces Española Valley in a critical game Wednesday and finishes off the regular season with a doubleheader against lowly Capital Saturday.