Lady Jags takes down Belen team

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The Valencia softball team continued its march to the state tournament on Tuesday evening with an 11-2 victory over visiting Belen.

The Jaguars (16-7, 5-2) remained in a tie for second place in District 6-4A with Los Lunas (17-6, 5-2), one game behind Gallup (15-6-1, 6-1).

"I definitely think that given our district, we've solidified getting into the state tournament, now we're playing for a seed," Valencia coach Jeff Young said. "We talked about it at the beginning of this week that we'd like to win three of four games for the remainder of this season and then see what happens."

Tuesday's victory was not as easy as the final score might indicate, Young said.

"(It was) rough because of exactly what you saw, a team that we clearly expect to beat in that situation and we came out and take them a little lightly, they can scare you a bit," he said.

The Eagles (8-13, 1-6) did show some positive signs in defeat, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead on Alexis Maese's two-run homer in the first inning.

That would be all the damage Erin Sharpe would allow, however, as the sophomore scattered six hits with no walks, two hit batters and struck out eight.

"I felt like I kind of let my team down (after the home run), so I needed to pick it up," Sharpe said.

Valencia took advantage of some shaky defense early on, helped out by the sun that was right in the eyes of Belen's shortstop, third baseman and left fielder.

Shortstop Arena Lewis made three errors in the first inning alone as the Jaguars roared back into the game.

"They're a young team and their coach is doing a good job with them, but they've got some learning to do," Young said.

Alisha Vigil reached on the first error, followed by Sharpe's single to left. Kayla Young hit into a fielder's choice that erased Vigil at third base.

Dayana Iturralde then reached on Lewis' second error while Sharpe scored. Marissa Kittredge was safe after another error by Lewis that enabled both Young and Iturralde to score and put Valencia ahead 3-2.

"It was tough, it was a tough deal," Belen coach Raymond Valerio said. "We're getting better. You can see our growth. It's just one of those things where we have to be patient."

Valencia added one run in the third on Amber Baca's RBI single. Adrianna Carbajal tripled with one out in the fourth and scored on an error by Belen third baseman Alex Baca during a botched rundown attempt between third and home.

The Jaguars blew the game open in the fifth as they loaded the bases with one out. Carbajal drew a walk to force in her team's sixth run, followed by Vigil's three-run triple to right field and Sharpe's two-run homer to center.

The Eagles had their chances, but Baca was left stranded after doubling with one out in the second, Sonora Vallejos was thrown out at home trying to score in the fourth and Sharpe ended up striking out the side after the first two batters reached base in the sixth.

Valencia will travel to Gallup for a showdown with the first-place Bengals at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Belen will return home to play Grants, also at 11 a.m. on Saturday.