The Los Lunas High School baseball team inched closer to its first district title in 18 years when it captured the first game of a doubleheader against defending District 3-5A champion Alamogordo late Friday afternoon at Los Lunas.
“They’re still the district champion until somebody takes it away,” Los Lunas head coach Steve Contreras said before the game. “They came here last year and beat us in our yard, and they beat us pretty good. This is a chance for us to gain a little bit of redemption against them.”
The Tigers, who finished as district runners-up to Alamo a year ago, got their redemption in Friday’s first game with a 7-4 win.
Alamo struck first with an unearned run in the first inning. But Los Lunas answered back with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Josh Hernandez doubled and was knocked home with a single by Carlos Castillo.
Los Lunas added three more runs in the third. The big hit in the inning was a two-run homer by Hernandez.
Los Lunas also added three runs in the sixth. After Christian Rael led off the inning with a single, Hernandez blasted his second home run of the game.Castillo followed Hernandez’s round-tripper with one of his own to give Los Lunas a 7-1 lead.
Alamo’s J.H. Marquardo hit a three-run dinger in the seventh, but that was all the visitors could manage.
Castillo earned a complete-game victory to improve his record to 6-0. He gave up five hits and struck out 11.
The loss dropped Alamo’s district record to 2-6 and eliminated it from the title chase.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 7-1, 13-5 overall, and assured themselves of at least a share of first-place in the district standings.
Los Lunas’ closest pursuer, Las Cruces Mayfield, also played a doubleheader on Friday — against Anthony Gadsden (no other scores from Friday were available at News-Bulletin press time).
Mayfield entered the day one game behind Los Lunas in the standings. The Tigers will travel to Las Cruces to play a single game on Tuesday that could determine the district title. The winner would hold the edge over the other, in case of a tie.
“We’ll see what happens. Our doubleheader and their doubleheader on Friday should mean a lot to both teams,” Contreras said.
Whatever the outcome, the Tigers still control their own destiny and are optimistic this will be the year they claim the crown.
“We know we can do it, we just have to come out and take care of business,” said senior Carlos Castillo. “The title will come when it comes.”
Castillo was largely responsible for Los Lunas maintaining its one-game lead over Mayfield on Tuesday when the Tigers beat visiting Las Cruces High 11-9. He drove in seven runs with a home run and a pair of doubles and earned the win in relief.
“Carlos has been one of our leaders the entire year, and he had a tremendous game,” Contreras said. “I think all of our seniors came out and played well that game.”
In addition to Castillo, seniors James Alarcon, Travis Ferrel, J.D. Garcia and Josh Hernandez all contributed to the victory.
After the Bulldawgs scored three runs in the first inning off Tiger starter Christain Real, Castillo got two runs back with a double that scored Nathan Romero and Hernandez.
In the third, Castillo drilled a 3-run homer over the right-center field fence to give Los Lunas the lead, 5-4.
When the Bulldawgs went back in front with a pair of runs in the fifth, Castillo came through yet again. His double scored Hernandez and Christian Rael to put Los Lunas back on top, 7-6.
To that point, Castillo had driven in all of the Tigers’ runs.
“The guys in front of me did a good job of getting on base, which is a big part of those seven RBIs, so give them credit,” Castillo said. “I just got the big hits, got them in the gaps, and was able to bring them in.”
Alarcon followed Castillo’s big hit with a single to plate another run and give Los Lunas an 8-6 lead.
But the Bulldawgs still had some bark left in them. Mayfield’s Matt Montoya sparked a two-out rally in the sixth with a single off Castillo. Two Tiger errors that followed allowed Las Cruces to tie the score, 8-8.
Las Cruces returned the favor in the bottom of the inning. After Garcia reached on an error to lead off the inning, Los Lunas resorted to some small ball and scored some big runs.
Ferrel and Romero were both called upon to bunt. Cruces misplayed both bunts, allowing Garcia to cross the plate, to put Los Lunas ahead, and Ferrel to score behind him. Hernandez doubled to right to add another run, and Los Lunas had an 11-8 lead.
The Bulldawgs added one final run in the seventh but didn’t have another comeback left in them.
Castillo struck out four in two innings of relief to improve his record to 5-0.
Hernandez, who entered the week leading the state in batting with a .630 average, boosted his average by going 3 for 4 at the plate.
“Hopefully, the younger guys will learn from the seniors because some of the older guys, the seniors especially, went through this last year,” Contreras said about his team being embroiled in a heated race for the district title.
After the Tigers play the critical game against Mayfield on Tuesday, they close out the district slate with a doubleheader at Anthony against Gadsden next Saturday.
Lady Tigers–Out of the district race altogether, the Lady Tiger softball team played a doubleheader at Alamogordo on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Lady Tigers lost at Las Cruces High 6-1 to fall to 1-6 in district play, 5-12 overall.
Four Los Lunas errors in the fourth inning allowed the Lady Bulldawgs (7-1, 13-5) to score three runs and break a 1-1 tie. The big hit in the inning was a two-RBI single by Vanessa Vasquez. Cruces added two more runs in the fifth to cap the scoring.
The Tigers had taken the early advantage when Stephanie Perea singled to score Brandi Giron in the top of the first inning. But Bulldawg hurler Erica Beltran shut down Los Lunas the rest of the way.
Ashley Herrera took the loss for Los Lunas.
The Tiger girls close out the season with two home dates. They’ll host Las Cruces Mayfield at 4 p.m. Tuesday and finish up the slate with a doubleheader against Gadsden next Saturday.