WEB EXCLUSIVE: Jags jump on ‘Toppers, advance to state softball quarters

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TOMÈ – The No. 5 seed Valencia were unrelenting in their first round match-up against No. 12 Los Alamos at Valencia High School, as the Jaguars cruised to a 10-0 win over the visiting Hlltoppers in five innings, earning the school its first-ever quarterfinal berth in the Class 4A State Softball Tournament.

“The girls practiced hard all week,” said VHS coach Jeff Young. “We worked on a lot of patience this week. We didn’t swing at bad pitches, we went for stuff we could hit and hit the ball well. Even a couple of hits that were caught were hit hard.”

The win propels Valencia (18-9) into the double-elimination portion of the tournament, which will be played in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Jags begin with No. 4 Artesia today at 11 a.m. at Rio Rancho High School and are guaranteed another game at 5 p.m. today, at Cleveland High School.
If VHS wins both games on today, they remain in the winner’s bracket and play Friday night at 6 p.m. at Lobo Field on the campus of the University of New Mexico. A loss would place them in the consolation bracket with games earlier in the day. To see the stat tournament bracket, go to the NMAA website at www.nmact.org.

On Friday afternoon, the Jaguars enjoyed a great game from sophomore starting pitcher Amber Baca, who wound up scattering three hits while striking out seven batters. The Valencia defense did its part as well in holding the ‘Toppers scoreless through five innings.

“Amber was just outstanding,” Young said. “When she’s on she’s as good as any pitcher in the state.”

The Jags bats got going early and remained a threat throughout the game. Led by junior Erin Sharpe, who had two hits, including a two-run home run, and brought in three RBIs, Valencia tacked nine hits on Los Alamos pitcher Kiana Zerr, who lasted four innings.

The Jaguars got going immediately, scoring four runs in the first inning off taking advantage of an error as well as an RBI double by Sharpe and an RBI single by Kayla Young to take a 4-0 lead.

Sharpe belted a two-run home run in the second to increase the lead to 6-0 then the Jags put the game out of reach in the fourth with a four run outburst.

“It was my favorite pitch, low and inside,” Sharpe said of the pitch she hit for the home run. “The team did great, keeping the intensity up for the whole game.”

Eighth-grader Alexis Vigil started the scoring jag off with a two-run home run, bringing in Marissa Kittredge, followed by runs by Sharpe and Young to end the game. All told, the Hilltoppers committed three errors in the game.

“It’s a good start,” Young said of the win. “I’ve been saying all along, we have two pretty good pitchers. Hopefully that helps us in the double-elimination part of it. We’ll keep working hard and hope for the best.”

Artesia defeated No. 12 Santa Fe 12-2 in Artesia last Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs won District 4-4A with a 7-1 record and enter their game with Valencia with a 19-7 record and are 14-1 in their last 15 games.

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