LLHS rallies past Los Alamos 8-7; Scorps sting Valencia

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

The Los Lunas High and Valencia High School teams had dramatically different outcomes in their opening-round games at home in the Class 4A State Softball Tournament last Saturday.

The 5th-seeded and experienced Tigers overcame a five-run deficit in the final two innings to take a dramatic 8-7 win over visiting Los Alamos at Los Lunas High School. The young Jaguars were not as fortunate, falling behind early to 11th-seeded Farmington and ultimately falling 11-5 at Valencia High School.

Los Lunas 8, Los Alamos 7

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas High School’s Sarah Weis bunts to get on base against Los Alamos during the Tiger’s 8-7 win over the Los Alamos last Saturday.

At Los Lunas High School, the Tigers faced a 7-3 deficit going into the bottom the sixth inning last Saturday afternoon, but scored five runs in their final two at bats to grab a dramatic 8-7 win over the visiting Hilltoppers.

Senior Cienna Thompson scored from third base on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh, capping an improbable three-run inning as Los Lunas (20-7) escaped its home field with a win.

“(Their pitcher) had our batter 0-2 on the count and was way ahead but it seemed like she tried to put a little too much on it and Cienna, a senior, got a good jump on it and scored,” LLHS coach Paul Cieremans said.

Cieremans had nothing but praise for his team after the win, particularly his seniors.

“We’re a senior-led team, we have six seniors on this club and they work hard,” he said. “They know what it takes to win. Los Alamos came to play. They’re a great team. I thought they had great pitching and they played some defense, but they had a couple of errors that allowed us to score.”

The dramatic ending seemed to be a Hollywood script writer’s dream after a rough top of the sixth inning that saw Los Alamos (14-12) erupt for five runs to erase a 4-3 Los Lunas lead. The big inning was fueled by solid hitting from the ‘Toppers as well as an ill-timed walk that put two on base and allowed LAHS’ Dancie Smith to drive in two runs before being tagged out trying to stretch her double into a triple.

The Tigers comeback began in the bottom of the sixth when pitcher Angela Duran hit a home run over the right field fence, bringing in Nicole Hathoot to cut the Los Alamos lead to 7-5.

Duran, who struggled early a bit early on, was able to retire the side in the top of the seventh to set up the final scene in the seventh inning.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia High School’s Kayla Young, left, watches for the bunt while Amber Baca throws during the Jaguars’ 11-5 loss against Farmington in last Saturday’s first round of the Class 4A State Softball Tournament at Valencia High School.

“Strategy wise, we didn’t need to get the whole chunk because we have some good hitters on the team and anyone’s able to start the inning, get some RBIs and doing their part,” said Cieremans. “I knew if we could chip away a little bit here, and then get some more, it’d give us a chance in the last inning.”

With the win, the Tigers advance to Thursday’s double-elimination portion of the State Softball Tournament, to be played at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho. LLHS takes on 4th-seeded Aztec, which beat Deming 5-2 last Saturday.

The Tigers beat Aztec 8-1 at the Rio Rancho Invite in March, but Cieremans said the win was not as easy as it appeared.

“We beat them 8-1 but we scored seven of our runs in the top of the seventh inning,” Cieremans said. “So it was 1-1 going into seventh inning before we got our sticks going. We’re looking forward to the challenge. They got the four seed, we got the five seed, so now we’ll get to see.”

“They have a lot of speed up front, a lot of lefties and they have good pitching,” said Cieremans. “They put the ball in play, they’re a quality team just like Los Alamos.”

Farmington, 11, Valencia, 5

At Valencia High School, the Scorpions scored six runs on five hits in the first two innings and led 11-1 before the Jaguars’ bats awoke in the bottom of the sixth.

Farmington’s Jordan Curry held Valencia (18-9) to just four hits on the day while the Scorps produced plenty of offense against the Jags’ Amber Baca, producing 12 hits.

“We made four mistakes early that cost us the momentum,” said VHS coach Jeff Young. “I won’t say they cost us the game, but they struggled. Our pitchers didn’t do a very good job today. We left the ball up and they (Farmington) hit us hard.”

Valencia scored a run in the second then added three runs in the bottom of the sixth, and looked poised to score more after Alisha Vigil hit a double that bounced up off the right field fence, falling just inches short of being a home run. But Valencia would score no more as Kayla Young grounded out on the next at bat, leaving two runners on base and squelching the Jags’ best rally of the day,

“We just didn’t quit,” Young said, describing the rally. “But Farmington is a good team and we talked early in the week about if we didn’t play well early that we wouldn’t win the game. This was what I was scared of, playing a single game. If you don’t play well early, you’ll lose the game.”

Valencia added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh and appeared poised for more but Curry found her rhythm for Farmington (13-14). After the shaky start to the inning, Curry got a strikeout, then a pop fly to end the inning and the game.

After the game, Young said he was proud of his young team.

“We had a great season,” he said. “We had more wins than any team in school history,. We had a harder schedule than we’ve ever had. We have a lot of young kids who made a lot of mistakes but learned a lot.

“(But) as much as I say they made mistakes, they’re also the one who won a bunch of games for us this year,” Young said.

The team is improving, he said, and is looking for its next step – the second round of the State Tournament.

“This is the third year in a row that we’d gotten to this point,” Young said. “Part of it is we’ve faced really tough teams. We’ve had some success, but we’re still learning. They (Farmington) have been there, they’ve had kids who’ve played in the state title game. They’ve done it. We don’t have that yet, we have to learn to do that.

“But we’re getting over the hump,” said Young. “We’d never beaten Los Lunas, we beat them this year. I expect us to be more competitive in the future.”