Lady Eagles experience heartbreaking loss

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Every softball game can be a teachable lesson, especially for a young team that is struggling.

Chris Jackson-News-Bulletin photo: Belen catcher Agusta Amaro tags out a Gallup player in a home plate collision in the fourth inning.

One of those lessons is that even in a lopsided defeat, a willingness to continue to fight until the last out is a positive that a team can build upon.

That was the case for the Belen Eagles in an 11-1 loss to the visiting Gallup Tigers on Saturday afternoon.

“Actually, this is probably the first game that we actually played with heart and composure for the whole game,” coach Raymond Valerio said. “We’re going to make mistakes, this is a young team.”

The game was close early on as Gallup (14-6-1, 5-1 District 6-4A) pushed across one run apiece in the first and second innings.

Belen (8-12, 1-5) responded in the second as Mariah Armijo singled, stole second base and went to third on a throwing error by the Bengals’ catcher. Alex Baca then drove her in with a sacrifice fly to pull the Eagles within 2-1.

“We actually hit the ball pretty decent today,” Valerio said. “We had runners in scoring position a couple of times.”

The score stayed that way until Gallup erupted for four runs in the fifth, four in the sixth and one more in the seventh.

Belen pitcher Emma Gonzales battled on the mound all day, striking out three and giving up just one walk while going the distance.

“My pitcher threw a heck of a game,” Valerio said. “She kept us in the game for quite a while. One hit here and one hit here and that made the difference.”

The Eagles have just two seniors on the roster, so Valerio is staying patient with his club.

“I was really happy with our effort today,” he said. “I really think that if we can continue to do this from here till the end of the year it’s only going to make us better.”

Valerio said he can see the maturation of his players with how they’ve learned to handle the losing. After getting down on themselves earlier in the year, the team is starting to show its mettle under pressure.

“Against Valencia it was a close game for three innings, against Los Lunas it was 0-0 for in the third inning,” Valerio said. “We come out OK but we’re so young it’s not going to stay like that the whole game. We’re going to make errors, we’re not going to get some of the balls the girls hit.

“So we try to keep it close. They’ve been battling. Today’s effort was really, really nice. Today they competed for seven innings and we just lost to a good team.”