Pojoaque Takes District Title With 12-2 Win

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The Pojoaque Valley High School softball team clinched the District 2-4A championship with a 12-2 victory over Los Alamos High School May4 in the first game of a doubleheader at Pojoaque. Pojoaque finished the season with a 9-3 record in istrict 2-4A. They will face Silver High School Saturday in the opening round of the Class 4A state softball championships in Silver City.

Pojoaque Takes District Title With 12-2 Win

By George Morse

The Pojoaque Valley High School softball team clinched first place in District 2-4A with a 12-2 victory over Los Alamos High School in the first game of a doubleheader May 4 at Pojoaque. The Elkettes jumped out to a 12-1 lead after two innings and the Lady Hilltoppers never recovered.

“We knew we were going to be good,” freshman Anissa Herrera said. “None of us expected to be district champions.”

Playing for the first time in District 2-4A (formerly District 2-5A) under first-year head coach Chris Ortiz, the Elkettes got off to a slow 1-5 start, but caught fire once they began district competition. With two freshmen and four sophomores in the starting lineup, Pojoaque put together an eight-game winning streak that included a 5-0 start in District 2-4A. As their confidence grew, the Elkettes stayed atop the District 2-4A standings and were 8-2 going into the final regular season-ending doubleheader against Los Alamos with a one-game lead over the second-place Hilltoppers. Los Alamos had to win both games of the doubleheader to take over first place.

The Hilltoppers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning in the first game. Right away, Los Alamos starting pitcher Savana Luster struggled. In the bottom of the first inning Herrera led off with a base hit and senior Ariana Salazar followed with another. With one out, sophomore Ayana Aguirre doubled home two runs. Aguirre scored on a double by junior Michaela Martinez. With two outs, sophomore Elysia Gonzales stroked another base hit to bring home Martinez.

Los Alamos replaced Luster on the mound with Isabella Robertson, who promptly hit Katelyn Mondragon with a pitch before getting the final out of the inning. Pojoaque had taken a 4-1 lead.

Pitching with the lead, Pojoaque starter junior Rebecca Chavez held the Hilltoppers scoreless in the top of the second inning. Los Alamos loaded the bases with one out, but Chavez came up strong to squelch the potential big inning by striking out Janessa Gonzales and Claire Bluhm as the Hilltoppers failed to score

“I was a little scared this time,” Chavez said. “I decided to just pitch it and trust my team. My knuckleball really worked this time.”

The Elkettes had batted around in the first inning, so Herrera led off the second inning. She once again got things started with a single. Salazar followed with a double. Robertson then walked the next two batters. Martinez stroked a base hit. Robertson issued her third walk of the inning and Kaelynn Mondragon delivered Pojoaque’s fourth hit of the inning.

That was enough to have Los Alamos change pitchers and bring in Katie Wimer to pitch. She got the second out on a grounder to first. Herrera, batting for the second time in the inning, had another base hit. She ended up scoring on two Los Alamos errors before the Hilltoppers were able to get the third out to end the inning. Pojoaque had sent 11 batters to the plate and had taken a commanding 12-1 lead with eight runs in the second inning.

Now with a big lead, Chavez was confident on the mound and only gave up one more run in the top of the fourth inning. Wimer shut Pojoaque out the next two innings. In the top of the fifth inning, Los Alamos trailed 12-2 and needed one run to stay alive. Wimer smacked a hard grounder into the hole between second base and third base. Pojoaque shortstop Aguirre, playing deep, got to the ball and gunned the long throw to first that beat Wimer by a step to the bag for the first out. First baseman Martinez made a nice scoop of Aguirre’s low throw.  It was a play that not every shortstop could make.

“She eats everything up,” Herrera said

Aguirre acknowledged that the position can be tough.

“You always have to be ready and expect the ball at all times,” Aguirre said. “Be ready to make the play. I know my own strength and know I can get it there (the ball to first base). I trust my first baseman.”

Aguirre got the second out of the inning on another grounder to short. After Luster got a base hit, Maya McMillan grounded to Chavez, who threw to first for the final out of the game. Pojoaque won 12-2 under the 10-run mercy rule and clinched the District 2-4A championship.

The Elkettes and Coach Ortiz celebrated the victory.

“I’ve been with these girls a while and I know what they can do,” Coach Ortiz said after winning a district championship in his first year as head coach. “They’re a tight group. It’s hard work that actually got us here. They deserve all the praise. They’re the ones playing on the field.”

Los Alamos did bounce back and win the second game. Pojoaque didn’t exactly quit playing and put 10 runs on the board, but the Elkettes had already won the game they needed to win. Los Alamos still had to win the second game or risk falling farther down the District 2-4A standings. The Hilltoppers had just six hits in the first game. They pounded out 17 hits in the second game including two home runs. Los Alamos won 16-10 to secure second place in the district standings.

It’s well known that District 2-4A gets little respect around the state and is considered a weak district. That lack of respect showed up May 5 when the seedings were announced for the 16-team field in the Class 4A state softball championships. Despite being district champions, Pojoaque received just the 13th seed in the field. Los Alamos was seeded 14th seed. Espanola Valley High School, who finished third in District 2-4A, got the 16th and lasr seed.

Pojoaque will have to go on the road and face fourth-seeded Silver High School Saturday in Silver City. Silver is the seven-time defending state champion, having won the Class 4A state title every year since 2012.

Coaches are always saying ”To be the best, you have to beat the best.”

The Elkettes will have to beat the best right off the bat.

The Pojoaque Valley Elkettes celebrate after defeating Los Alamos to clinch the District 2-4A championship.

Anissa Herrera lays down a beautiful bunt against Los Alamos. She beat the throw to first for a base hit. Herrera went 4-for-4 and scored three runs in the Elkettes 12-2 victory.

Pojoaque's Ayana Aguirre stroked a pair of doubles in Pojoaque's 12-2 victory over Los Alamos.

 

Pojoaque shortstop AyanaAguirre gobbles upanother ground ball.

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