Tigers’ mistakes, lack of hits lead to tourney ouster

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Slow starts in both games sent the Los Lunas Lady Tigers crashing out of the double-elimination Class 4A State Softball Tournament games last Thursday.

The fifth-seeded Tigers finished the year with an 8-5 loss to Aztec in the winners bracket Thursday morning, followed by an 8-4 loss to District 6-4A rivals Gallup Miyamura in the consolation bracket. Both games were played at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo LOS LUNAS HIGH’S Jerrica Chavez swings at a pitch during the Tigers’ 8-4 loss to Gallup Miyamura during last week’s Class 4A State Softball Tournament.

Against fourth-seeded Aztec in the quarterfinal opener, Los Lunas took an early 3-1 lead. But Aztec rallied to take the lead back in the third inning, taking advantage of a Tiger error and slapping a pair of hits to take a 4-3 lead.

Aztec (22-6) extended the lead to 5-3 in the fourth inning before the Tigers tied the game 5-5 with a pair of runs in the fifth and looked poised to ride the momentum to a win.

But Aztec against took advantage of Tiger mistakes in the seventh inning, scoring three runs on three hits and two untimely errors to secure the win and send Los Lunas to the consolation bracket.

“We made some mistakes early on and gave them some runs and it was a back and forth game,” LLHS head coach Paul Cieremans said. “Unfortunately, we made some mistakes at the end that cost us.”

In the consolation bracket game against ninth-seeded Gallup Miyamura, Los Lunas fell behind early but took a 4-3 lead going into the fifth inning.

But the Patriots (18-13) scored in the fifth to tie the game 4-4, then erupted for four runs in the sixth inning.

Miyamura’s Kelli Burnham frustrated the Tigers early on but was clearly rattled during the Tigers’ rally in the fourth, hitting two batters and issuing two walks.

But LLHS could have done more damage in the inning, loading the bases before Burnham got senior Jacklynn Sanchez to fly out to center to end the inning.

“We weren’t able to get the key hits when we needed to,” Cieremans said. “And defensively we didn’t make the plays all the time that we should have. And that accounted for a lot of their runs.”

Cieremans said he was proud of his team, which finished the season 20-9.

“We had 20 wins this season so we have nothing to hang our heads about,” he said.

Cieremans said losing senior pitcher D’Ana Gabaldon, who broke her leg midway through the season, was a blow to th team. But he commended his six senior players — Sanchez , Jerrica Chavez, Nicole Hathoot, Alliana Madrid, Mykayla Moody and Cienna Thompson — for picking up the leadership reins in Gabaldon’s absence.

“To come back we didn’t have a single leader, we had the six girls pushing each other and trying to motivate and keep it going,” Cieremans said. “So I’m very proud of the senior leadership this year.”

With four starters returning and a good group of underclassmen stepping up and into roles, Cieremans said the Tigers should be young, but will also be experienced and strong in 2014.

“We have the core group of girls who can lead,” he said. “We’ll have a good team.”