Ilana Garcia dives back into 2nd base ahead of the tag by Trinity Ortega in the 2nd inning. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Second baseman Hannah Bergemann catches a popup as Savanna Casados makes a run for 3rd. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
By MIKE COTE
Los Alamos Daily Post
A pair of hard-fought ballgames could’ve gone either way, but the Los Alamos Hilltopper baseball team was able to pick up a critical doubleheader sweep at Española Valley Saturday.
Los Alamos and Española Valley went right down to the wire in game one, but Los Alamos squeaked out a 3-1 victory. Game two was competitive most of the way until a 3-run home run by Grant Watkins gave the Hilltoppers the breathing room they needed in the sixth inning as they took that game 10-2.
The second game was part of a softball-baseball doubleheader broadcast on the Los Alamos Daily Post’s YouTube channel.
Los Alamos and Española Valley met March 30 in Los Alamos, and the Hilltoppers crushed the Sundevils 24-3. Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, it was hardly unreasonable to think the Hilltoppers would win in similar fashion again.
But the Sundevils (5-15 overall, 1-7 in District 2-4A) kept Los Alamos’ powerful offense off balance for virtually the entire first game and a good chunk of the second game.
Three Sundevil pitchers, Tyller Lomayma, Markus Salazar and Santiago Aguilar, kept Los Alamos in check throughout game one. Heading into the seventh, the Hilltoppers had just a 1-run lead before a run was walked home in the Hilltoppers’ final at-bat.
Donovan Valerio and Grant Watkins appeared on the mound for Los Alamos to help secure the victory.
In game two, Los Alamos appeared to get on track offensively, scoring twice in the first inning, but Espanola Valley scratched out runs in the bottom of the first and bottom of the third to stay within striking distance.
Although the Hilltoppers were able to get some separation in the middle innings, going up 6-2 after five, Espanola Valley had a chance in the bottom of the fifth to get back into the ballgame, putting two runners on with back-to-back infield hits against pitcher Taylor Drake.
Drake, who was nearly unhittable a week earlier against Pojoaque and has been lights-out throughout district play, got into a little trouble throughout Saturday’s game, including in that fifth inning, but was able to strike out Lomayma, the Sundevils’ No. 3 man in the batting order, to quell any possible rally.
With the outcome still somewhat in doubt, Watkins crushed an inside fastball over the right field wall in the sixth with a pair of runners on board to turn a relatively tenuous lead into a commanding one at that point.
Los Alamos appeared to score again in the inning, but a runner who appeared to score on a sacrifice fly by Jack Mooday was called out.
In game two, Charles Steinkamp had a double and drew three walks, scoring a run, while Watkins was 2- for-4 and scored twice.
With just four games remaining in the regular season, Los Alamos (14-7 overall, 8-0 in 2-4A) has a commanding lead for the district title. Heading into the final games, only Taos has a realistic shot of catching Los Alamos – those two teams play at the very end of the season and the Hilltoppers could already have the district sewn up by that time.
The Topper bats were working in full swing as Maira DeHerrera took a big swing at the ball in the 3rd inning. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
The leadoff pitcher Taylor Drake picks up a bunt attempt in the 1st inning in a very dusty ball field. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Maddox Martinez slides into the tag by Tyler Lomayma at 2nd in the 2nd inning. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Grant Watkins slams a 3-run homer in the 2nd inning. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
The Voice of the Toppers Gene Mortensen, left, and Mike Cote who both call games for the Los Alamos Daily Post were keeping sharp eyes on the action at the boys baseball game Saturday in the dust bowl in Española. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com