Toppers watch their final game of the 2021 season. Photo by John McHale/

Charles Steinkamp slides into 2nd and avoids Mark McNaney, the 2nd baseman and Henry Mitchell the shortstop for safe landing in the 2nd inning. Photo by John McHale/

Shortstop Tyler Neal goes vertical for the ball. Photo by Nate Limback/

Hilltopper Game Summary
By Mike Cote

The Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team had an impressive offensive 2021 season, but the offense couldn’t find the answer for Albuquerque Academy’s starting pitcher Tuesday afternoon.

Los Alamos took on Academy’s Chargers in the opening round of the Class 4A baseball playoffs at Bomber Field. In that single-elimination contest, the Hilltoppers fell to the Chargers 5-0.

The Chargers (15-6) scored twice in the top of the third inning. They would add a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh, but that was more than was needed for Academy starter Ryan Pullen.

Pullen threw a complete game, setting down the final 12 Hilltoppers he faced. Pullen gave up just two hits in seven innings to a Hilltopper team that averaged 8.4 runs per game during the regular season.

Hilltopper ace pitcher Taylor Drake started the game for his team. Drake, who had been lights-out for the last month-plus of the season, ran into some trouble in the second and third innings.

In that third inning, the sixth-seeded Chargers came up with the pair of runs – all the offense they would need to upset the third-ranked Hilltoppers. They came up with 4 hits, all singles, including a bloop single by Alex Gaeto to knock in the second run of the inning, which was all the offense the Chargers would need.

Drake, in his previous outing Saturday, flirted with a perfect game against Pojoaque Valley, but Academy made solid contact throughout Tuesday’s playoff game, while the Hilltoppers couldn’t find the offense to match.

Only center fielder Caden Thornton, the first Hilltopper batter of the game, and designated hitter Charles Steinkamp came up with hits off Pullen.

With the win, the Chargers move on to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs, which will take place Thursday. The championship game is set for Saturday at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

The Hilltoppers, who won 12 in a row ahead of Tuesday’s loss, finished its 2021 season with a mark of 18-3. 

Third baseman Grant Watkins picks up a hot grounder and makes the throw to 1st in time for the out. Photo by John McHale/

Diego Rodrigues, Caden Thornton and Gus Yeager all go for a fly ball in the 3rd inning and in all the confusion, Yeager caught the ball for the out. Photo by John McHale/

Left fielder Ron Terp has his eye on the flyball and makes the catch for the 2nd out of the 5th inning. Photo by John McHale/

Calvin Weimer reaches long for a bunt attempt in the 5th inning. Photo by John McHale/

Starting pitcher, Taylor Drake throws in a pitch early in the game. Photo by Nate Limback/