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Artesia minors little league wins district tournament

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By Ari Levin

A rainbow shone over Jaycee Park as a drizzle let up just before the start of the game.

That may have symbolized good things to come for Artesia Little League as they battled for a spot in the state tournament.

Behind a complete-game shoutout from Jett Baca and strong defense, Artesia minor little league defeated Carlsbad Shorthorn 3-0 to win the district tournament on Wednesday. They will advance to play in the state tournament in Los Lunas.

Shorthorn had scored 13 runs in their previous game to reach the championship, but was unable to score against Artesia.

Dozens if not more were at the game, both in the bleachers and lined up all along the fence from the foul lines through the outfield.

But despite the stakes of the game, coach Jason Mendoza said he did not see nerves in his team.

Artesia scored their first run in the top of the third on a leadoff triple by Jed Bilberry, who scored on a wild pitch. That gave them a lead they would never relinquish, as the defense held strong and Shorthorn never crossed the plate.

“Before we started the game, I told everyone that we need to come out and make sure we play our game,” Mendoza said. “These kids, I felt like we started off slow to get the bats going. When they started throwing the bat, it really changed the game for us.”

In the fourth inning, they added insurance runs on a fielder’s choice and then an RBI single by Jase Bilberry.

“There was not much they could actually do to score on us, it was awesome,” Mendoza said.

Baca finished the game with 76 pitches; 75 is the maximum for a pitcher, meaning he was on his last batter no matter what. The first baseman almost dropped the ball on the final play, but picked it up to secure the win.

“He’s one of my ace pitchers,” Mendoza said of Baca. “I was glad to be able to have them for that many pitches.”

Artesia’s juniors little league of 12-to-14 year-olds will also play in the state tournament, with their first game on Friday in Rio Rancho.

“Not a lot of teams from this area get to go to state, represent the city,” Mendoza said. “For us to do it, means a lot to us.”

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