The Los Lunas High School baseball team might have caught the bug again — “the bug” being the fever for winning.
Last year, the Tigers caught the bug and put together a 10-game win streak. Headed into Saturday’s home game with the Rio Grande Ravens, Los Lunas (1-1) rides a one-game win streak after a 12-6 win over a good Del Norte program on Thursday.
“Winning is contagious for us — it always has been — so, hopefully, we can keep it going,” said senior James Alacron, who had two doubles and four RBI in Thursday’s home opener. “Rio Grande is a good club, but so are we. We’ll give them a good game.”
Rio Grande enters the game with a 1-1 record. Saturday’s game time is 10 a.m.
Los Lunas caught the bug in the first inning against Del Norte (0-2), a program that has been to the state tournament semifinals two years in a row. The first five Tiger batters reached base safely against the Knights’ starting pitcher, Jeremy Littlehoop. The big hit in the inning was a two-run double by Alacron.
“I was waiting for that curve ball he threw to the first couple of batters, and I waited back on it and drove it,” said the senior first baseman.
The Tigers scored four runs in the first and added another in the second on a RBI double by Christian Rael.
The Knights rallied in the third to close to within 5-3, but the Tigers answered back with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
After J.D. Garcia walked, the Tigers banged out five-straight hits, including doubles by Matt Baca (who missed a home run by a foot) and Brian Holmes, to take an 8-3 lead and chase Littlehoop.
Los Lunas starter Carlos Castillo didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, when the Knights added a run. During his stint, Castillo registered 13 outs, nine by strikeout. But he allowed the leadoff batter to reach in each of the first five innings and walked 10.
Los Lunas head coach Steve Contreras was ejected during the game for arguing balls and strikes.
Christian Rael came on in relief of Castillo in the fifth and got out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing two ground ball outs.
Del Norte missed its chances, leaving 12 runners on base. The Tigers made good on their opportunities. In the fifth inning, they staged a two-out rally that produced four runs. Rael helped his cause with a two-run single, and Alacron had another two-run double to make the score 12-4.
Rael earned the win in two and two-thirds innings of relief, giving up four hits, one earned run, walking one and striking out four.
In addition to Alacron’s 2-for-4 performance at the plate, the Tigers were led by leadoff hitter Travis Ferrel, who was 3 for 5 with two runs, Rael, who was 2 for 3 with two runs, and Larry Sutherland, who was 3 for 4 with two runs.
“It was a good win for us,” said coach Contreras. “I think we needed it to build a little bit of confidence. I think we were little bit down after our loss on Tuesday.”
The Tigers took a tough loss in their season opener at Cibola on Tuesday. After the Cougars pocketed three unearned runs off Los Lunas starter Josh Hernandez in the first inning, the Tigers rallied to tie the game with a run in the third and a pair in the fourth.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the seventh. Hernandez walked Mike Tenorio to lead off the inning. Hernandez tried to pick off Tenorio leading off first base, but the throw got away and allowed the winning run to reach third.
“He was upset about that,” Contreras said of Hernandez’s miscue, “but he had 11 strikeouts and almost single-handedly kept us in the game. It just came down to a play there at the end.”
Two batters later, Jared Barreras chopped an infield single over Hernandez’s head, and the runner scored to give the Cougars a 4-3 win.
“We’ll take that one as our learning experience,” the coach said. “That game will help us. Even though we lost it, that game will help us come district time.”