The Los Lunas High School baseball team tightened up its defense and got its bats working against district foe Gadsden on Tuesday, sending the Panthers packing with a 13-2 beating in five innings. Setting the pace in the District 3-5A race, the Tigers improved to 4-1, 9-5 overall.
“Every game from here on in is important,” Tiger head coach Steve Contreras said. “We are in a very competitive district, and we are going to have to come out and play every game.”
Some games are less important than others — like a non-district home game against Valley at 2 p.m. Saturday. The game in no way affects the Tigers’ bid for a district title. But it could help Los Lunas keep its momentum going.
The Tigers have been scoring runs in droves. They’ve scored 90 runs in their last seven games, beginning with an 11-7 win at Valley on March 12. Since then they’ve averaged nearly 13 runs per game, winning six of the seven.
Against Gadsden (9-3, 1-2), fireballer Los Lunas Josh Hernandez gave up just four hits and struck out seven Panthers in five innings to improve his record to 5-1.
“My off-speed stuff was really working for me,” said Hernandez, who has won five in a row after losing the season opener. “I didn’t really throw the fastball that much. I just came in and hit my spots and didn’t try to overpower anyone.”
The Panthers put up one run against Hernandez in the first inning, but Los Lunas answered back with three runs in the bottom of the inning aided by three Gadsden errors.
The Tigers took command of the game in their second at bat. Los Lunas batted around, starting with Xavier Alverado (the nine hitter) and ending with Christian Rael (the lead-off man). Los Lunas sophomore third baseman Matt Baca had the big hit in the inning — a double to the gap in left field that produced three runs. When the dust had cleared, the Tigers found themselves leading 10-1 after two frames.
“It’s good to know you have runs behind you,” Hernandez said. “Then you can just go out there and get three up and three down and come back and hit some more.”
The nine-run lead would be plenty for Hernandez. He allowed only one more run in the next three innings, while the Tigers offense kept pouring it on.
Los Lunas pushed two runs across the plate in the third inning and added another in the fourth to complete the scoring.
Baca went 1 for 3 in the game and drove in four runs. Nathan Romero was 3 for 4 at the plate and scored three times. Hernandez was 1 for 1 and walked twice, scoring all three times he reached base.
The Tiger defense, which committed nine errors in its previous game against Las Cruces Mayfield, held strong, committing one defensive miscue. But some dynamite defense by the Tigers in the top of the fifth closed out the game.
Los Lunas hits the halfway mark of the district schedule Tuesday when it travels to Alamogordo for a single game.