Valencia, Los Lunas softball ready for state

........................................................................................................................................................................................

A tough District 6-4A schedule has prepared both the Los Lunas High School and Valencia High School softball teams as they head into play in the Class 4A State Tournament this weekend.

Both teams will be hosting first-round games Saturday with the 5th-seeded Tigers (19-7) hosting the 12-seed Los Alamos Hilltoppers (14-11) at 11 a.m. at Los Lunas High School.

The 6th-seeded Jaguars (18-8) host the 11th-seeded Farmington Scorpions (12-14) at 1 p.m. at Valencia High School.

LLHS coach Paul Ciermans said district play has definitely prepared the Tigers and Jaguars for the rigors of the state tournament.

“This year, of the top nine seeds, four are from our district,” said Ciermans. “That speaks pretty good for district. Now we need to make sure we represent the district well.”

Ciermans said he and his team were expecting a better seed, but were happy with being the 5-seed.

“We compare well with Los Alamos and we’re looking forward to the game Saturday,” he said.

Of the two, VHS faces a tougher matchup, said head coach Jeff Young.

“They (Farmington) are probably the best team in the lower nine teams of the tournament,” Young said. “They’re scrappy and fast. They’re well-coached and hit well. It’ll be a good matchup for us.”

The Jaguars played the Scorpions twice in the regular season, losing 5-4 on March 14, but rebounding for an 8-7 win the next day as part of the Aztec Tiger Tournament in the Four Corners.

The key will be grabbing an early lead and holding on to it, Young said.

“It’s a maturity thing for us,” he said. “We’re a very young team. We get leads and then relax. So we need to learn how to put teams away. (But) we’re learning. Against Miyamura, we did that and, in the second Los Lunas game, we did that.

“I’m hoping we grow up into that. This is a new realm for us,” said Young.

By contrast, Los Lunas will be relying on experience with a group of salty seniors who have state tournament experience.

“It’s been an experience the last few years,” said Ciermans. “This year, we have six seniors starting so they know what to expect — they’ll go out and play their game. It’s the last hurrah for these six seniors, so they’ll do what they can to win the game.”

Junior Angela Duran (18-6) will be on the mound for the Tigers, Ciermans said.

“Basically we’re a strong team and have a great defense,” he said. “Angela does well and hits spots. She lets the defense help her, so she doesn’t need to overpower batters.”

For VHS, Young said the starting pitcher position will be a game-time decision between freshman Amber Baca and sophomore Erin Sharpe.

“They’re both very similar,” said Young. “They both throw fairly hard and try to dominate. Amber is a little better with placement and Erin, a little more imposing.”

Both teams are looking to advance to the double-elimination portion of the Class 4A State Tournament, which begins at 8 a.m., Thursday, May 16, at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.

The 4A championship game of the 16-team tournament is scheduled for 10 a.m., Saturday, May 18, at Lobo Field on the University of New Mexico’s South Campus.