Spring fever strikes

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Los Lunas took the first baseball meeting this season against arch rival Belen this week, but all was not lost for the Eagles, who bounced back at home against Gallup Saturday to split their games for the week and remain solidly in second place with a record of 14-6, 4-2 in district as of the end of play Saturday.

Los Lunas moved to 12-8 with the win over Belen, and a 10-0 win at home against Grants Thursday. The Tigers, who moved to 12-8 and 5-1 on Thursday, benefited from a road loss by league-leading Valencia on Saturday. The Jaguars fell 8-3 to Miyamura in Gallup, and stood tied with Los Lunas in first after Saturday at 15-5 overall, 5-1 in district.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN SENIOR GABRIEL LUCERO takes a lead off first base as a Gallup pitcher checks him off the base during the Eagles 8-2 win over Gallup Saturday.

After their game against Gallup Saturday, the scoreboard at Belen High’s Trini Montiel Field read 8-2 in favor of the home team, but Coach Steve Contreras was not happy with the performance his Eagles gave in the win.

“For some reason, we came out flat,” said Contreras. “We’ve been on spring break this week; Good Friday was yesterday. But no excuses. I was a little disappointed with the overall team effort, even with the win. That kind of stuff can’t happen.”

Senior Timmy Vialpando threw a three-hitter and the Eagles defense did its job keeping the visiting Bengals from ever really getting going at the plate, but Contreras felt his Belen team was lackadaisical at times. The coach even got after a player who did not run out what looked to be a pop fly to right but became a base-running opportunity when the Gallup outfield missed the play.

“Timmy pitched a very good game, that’s really what helped us win the game today,” Contreras said. “And we played pretty good defense behind him.

The Eagles improved to 14-6, 4-2 in advance of their rematch with first place Valencia at Valencia High School Tuesday. Coverage of that game can be found online in a web-first story at www.news-bulletin.com Wednesday night.

On Saturday, the Eagles took a while to get going, but eventually scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning, taking advantage of the Gallup drop on the pop up and a walk. Belen added two in the third and another in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning.

In the fifth, Gallup finally got on the board with a run set up by a walk and a single, scoring on a passed ball to cut the lead to 5-1. The Eagles answered with another run in the bottom of the fifth and the Bengals again cut the lead with a run in the top of the sixth inning to set the Eagles’ advantage to 6-2.

Belen closed the scoring in the sixth, scoring a pair of runs with two outs and taking advantage of another Bengal mistake on a pop up, this time in center field.

The Eagles quickly dispatched the Bengals in the top of the seventh, turning a nifty 6-4-3 double play followed by a standing strikeout by Vialpando to end the game.

“Were having a good season, we have a chance to do something good when seeding time comes,” Contreras said. “We just have to put this behind us.”

In what looked to be a barn burner early on, Los Lunas earned a must-win game 13-8 over the host Eagles by getting key hits late in the game and taking advantage of few Belen miscues last Tuesday.

“They got a little confident and believe they could win the game and didn’t let down,” said LLHS coach Pete Candelaria. “We spotted them four runs on errors and that was a backbreaker. You can’t give a team like this breaks like that. We were fortunate that we got the clutch hits today.”

The two teams started off trading runs, the Tigers striking initially to take a 1-0 lead. By the top of the second inning, Belen led 2-1, but after a force play at home to give Los Lunas two outs, the Tigers managed to score three runs to take a 4-2 lead.

Belen scored a pair in the bottom of the second to tie the game 4-4 then took a 6-4 lead when Gabriel “Bubba” Lucero tripled to left, scoring Andrew Castillo and Timmy Vialpando, making the score 7-4.

“We had the momentum early and kind of gave it up, made a couple of miscues,” said BHS coach Steve Contreras. “We had eight runs, which should be enough to win. But Los Lunas put the ball in play; they’re a solid baseball team. We gave them some extra outs making mistakes. That’s just the way it goes.”

Los Lunas began its comeback in the top of the fourth, scoring one run to cut the lead to 7-5. Then, in the top of the fifth, the Tigers put Belen pitcher Nick Aragon in a bind, singling to start the inning then earning a pair of walks to load the bases.

Tiger senior Darron Gallegos scored on a passed ball to cut the lead to 7-6. Senior Mike Abeita then broke the game open with a three RBI triple on the next at bat and Los Lunas took a 9-7 lead.

“That was a game changer,” said Candelaria. “The kids were patient at the plate. That was a big hit that changed the momentum of the game. You could see our team come up and their team go down.”

The Tigers loaded the bases again in the top of the sixth and scored four more runs before the Eagles could escape the inning, trailing 13-7.

Aragon started the Eagles off with a triple in the bottom of the sixth and would score on a fielder’s choice on the next at bat to cut Los Lunas’ lead to 13-8. But the Eagles popped up two to end the inning.

Los Lunas pitcher Kenneth Peña opened and closed the seventh inning with strike outs to end the game and earn the win. Los Lunas managed nine hits and stranded six in the game while Belen finished with 11 hits and six left on base.