Española Loses Heartbreaker In Final Inning

by John McHale
Meranda Romero tries to tag out Terri Jaramillo in the third inning. Photo courtesy of John McHale

Española Loses Heartbreaker In Final Inning

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

There were tears in the dugout of the Española Valley High School softball team after the Lady Sundevils lost a heartbreaker to the Los Alamos High School Lady Hilltoppers 10-9 April 26 at Overlook Park in White Rock.

The Lady Sundevils had led most of the game, getting some big hits. That included two over-the-fence home runs. The second blast by catcher Alexia Garcia had given Española a 9-7 lead heading into the seventh inning. After Los Alamos pitcher Reyna Lucero held Española scoreless in the top of the seventh inning, the lady Sundevils were just three outs away from winning the game and taking over first place in District 2-5A.

The Lady Hilltoppers had been hitting the ball. Española had been coming up with good defensive plays

Los Alamos Coach Randy Burditt has a simple philosophy when it comes to softball.

“Hit the ball hard,” he said. “Live with the consequences.

Trailing 9-8 with two outs and runners at second and third base against the Lady Sundevils in a key District 2-5A game April 26 at Overlook Park in White Rock, the Lady Hilltoppers Alicia Gonzales hit the ball hard and deep to left field. Fans from both teams watched its flight wondering “Will it be over the fence” or “Will it be caught.”

Alexia Garcia heads for home. Photo courtey of John McHale

Española left fielder Sydnee Pollack was at the fence. The ball landed in her glove, then fell out. Both runners on base scored to give Los Alamos a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over the Lady Sundevils.

“I was actually just thinking ‘I have to get a base hit and at least tie the game,’” Gonzales said.

The Los Alamos team stormed the field in celebration. The Lady Hilltoppers had battled back from behind the entire game. The only lead they held was at the end.

“That’s what you get when two teams go after each other,” Coach Burditt said.

The consequences were huge for the Lady Hilltoppers. With just two games remaining in District 2-5A for both teams, Los Alamos took over sole possession of first place in the district standings.

Alyssa Aguilar was the starting pitcher in Espanola’s 10-9 loss to Los Alamos April 26 in Los Alamos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

 The Lady Hilltoppers face Capital High School in a doubleheader Monday in Santa Fe. If Los Alamos sweeps the doubleheader, they win the District 2-5A title outright. If the Lady Hilltoppers win one game and split the doubleheader, they would be tied with Española for first place. The Lady Hilltoppers would win the tiebreaker between the two teams by virtue of winning their three-game series with Española 2-1.

With the District 2-5A championship goes an automatic berth in the Class 5A state softball tournament. Although Española would take second place, they would have to wait to see if they receive an at-large berth to the state tournament.

The Lady Sundevils had taken a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Los Alamos had come back with two runs in the bottom of the second inning to make the score 3-2. Española’s Haley Ortega led of the top of the third inning with a home run over the left field fence. The Lady Sundevils added two more runs on a walk, a double by Alyssa Aguilar and a passed ball to take a 6-2 lead.

The Española Valley High School softball team celebrates as they welcome teammate Haley Ortega as she crosses home plate after hitting a home run against Los Alamos.

Los Alamos answered with three runs in the bottom of the third. Jayde Tucker beat out an infield hit. Megan Romero followed with a single. Lauren Harris drew a walk and Jordan Jaramillo doubled. The score was 6-5 heading into the fourth inning.

Española added a run in the top of the fourth on Alexia Garcia’s triple and Ortega’s double. Los Alamos added a run in the bottom of the fourth and then tied the game 7-7 with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning on hits by Romero, Jaramillo and Mariah Mauro.

Española took a 9-7 lead when Garcia slammed a pitch by Los Alamos starter Reyna Lucero over the centerfield fence for a two-run homer. Thanks to two great defensive plays by Ortega, who threw out a runner at third base and made a fine, running catch on Tucker’s hard shot to center field, the Lady Sundevils held the Lady Hilltoppers scoreless in the bottom of the sixth inning. Española had a 9-7 lead going into the seventh and final inning.

Photo courtesy John McHale

It looked like Española would extend their lead in the top of the seventh inning when the first two batters reached base for the Lady Sundevils. The threat was extinguished when Taylor Collins speared a line drive at second base, then doubled up the runner at second base for a double play.

Española led 9-7 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Romero led off with a single for Los Alamos. She was forced out at second base on a grounder to shortstop by Harris. Kasia Povijua singled. Both runners advanced on a passed ball. After a groundout back to the pitcher for the second out, pitch hitter Claire Bluhm drew a walk to load the bases. Harris scored on a passed ball and the other runners advanced, setting the stage for Gonzales.

Lucero went the distance on the mound for the Lady Hilltoppers and earned the victory with a gutsy performance on the mound. Although she surrendered nine runs, she kept the Lady Sundevils from having a big inning that had characterized most of their wins this season. Lucero never allowed more than three runs in an inning.

“Reyna is a warrior, a battler,” Coach Burditt said. “She won’t quit and stays pretty level.”

Lucero had been the winning pitcher in the Lady Hilltoppers other win over Española, a 5-4 victory in extra innings April 8 in Española.

“My confidence in my team is the biggest thing,” Lucero said. “This was a team effort and we really came together.”

For Española, the Lady Sundevils are looking at finishing in second place in District 2-5A. Española was ranked 16th in the state coming into the game against Los Alamos and just 12 teams will advance to the Class 5A state softball playoffs. The Lady Sundevils finish their season with a doubleheader against Del Norte High School Monday at Española.