For as long as anyone there could remember, the Los Lunas high school softball team has fallen victim to the wrath of the Belen lady Eagles. Now with a brand-new coach in the mix, the Tigers broke the curse and beat Belen, 5-1, on Thursday at Los Lunas.
Los Lunas couldn’t get anything going in the early innings against Belen starter Darlene Baca.
“We were hitting the ball, but we just couldn’t find the holes,” said Los Lunas’ first-year head coach Glenn Trujillo of the early innings.
Baca kept Los Lunas batters from reaching base in the first two innings. Belen mounted the game’s first threat when Jacqueline Trujuque reached base with a hit and advanced to second base on a passed ball.
Los Lunas got out of the inning but ran into more trouble in the third. But with one out, Belen catcher Brandi Dearing was caught stealing, and Tiger pitcher Ashley Herrera struck out Casandra Gallegos swinging.
The turning point of the game came in the bottom of the third inning. The Tigers stormed out in the inning when Tigers’ catcher Chacara Fleming led
off with a single. The next batter, Stephanie McIntosh, reached on an error. One out later, Michelle Romero loaded the bags for the Tigers with a base hit.
With a single into the gap, Amanda Sanchez scored Fleming for the first run of the game. The Eagles were able to get out of the inning with the bases loaded and only one run crossing the plate, but they would not recover from the deficit.
“Rivalry games bring this kind of emotion to a game,” Eagle head coach Nettie Salas said. “We had some mental errors, but I don’t want to take anything away from Los Lunas. They came out and played us a good game.”
The Eagles were able to knot the score in the fourth inning when Katherine Archuleta singled and stole her way around to third. She later scored on an error.
But the Tigers would not be stifled. Tiger shortstop Michelle Romero lead off the fifth with a single. Her base hit was followed by a double by Amanda Sanchez — the only extra-base hit of the game. Brandi Giron singled to load the bases once again for the Tigers.
Romero found her way home, beating a close play at the plate. And Salas went out to change her fireballer.
With no outs, the bases loaded and the Eagles down 2-1, Salas lifted Baca in favor of eighth-grader Martina Chavez, who allowed two runners to score. Chavez gave up another run in the sixth ininng, and the Tigers led, 5-1.
The Eagles rallied in the final inning, when Jacqueline Trujeque, who had reached base in all three of her at bats, once again found herself on first base thanks to a Tiger error. With one out, the Eagles loaded the bases for Keisha Jaramillo, courtesy of a hit-batter and a walk. But Jaramillo, representing the tying run for the Eagles, hit into a 1-2-3 double play, and the Eagles’ hopes were dashed.
Naturally, the Tigers were overjoyed.
“This really gives us something to build on,” coach Trujillo said. “When we came into this season, we didn’t set any goal for wins. We just said come out and give 100 percent and work hard and that’s all I can ask. This win could snowball and carry on into the next game.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles were understandably disappointed. But Belen head coach Nettie Salas downplayed the loss.
“I don’t want to play too much into this game. Los Lunas played well, and we just need to find some maturity, which will come with time,” Salas said.
Both teams play again on Saturday. The Eagles will travel to Albuquerque to take on St. Pius X. The Tigers will be at home taking on Gallup in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m.