One run nearly took the Bulldog baseball team the distance Saturday in the consolation championship game of the Caveman Classic in Carlsbad.
That lone run – scored in the top of the second when AJ Estrada, on with a leadoff walk, was plated on a double by Trent Taylor – lasted the Artesia boys through five-and-a-half innings of a defensive battle with Miyamura.
But in the bottom of the sixth, Giovanni Chioda led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch, and on a ground ball to short, the ‘Dogs elected not to try to throw him out at home, getting the batter at first instead and heading into the seventh tied.
Considering the events of the first several innings, many Artesia fans were likely prepping for extra innings, but with two away and runners on first and second, center-fielder AJ Estrada blasted a single down the left-field line to score Robert Fernandez – also on with a base hit – and restore the ‘Dogs’ lead, 2-1.
With closer Miguel Martinez on the mound, the Patriots’ first batter of the home half ground out to third. The second singled, but following a pop fly to short, Artesia had two outs with the runner held at first.
A Matt Chavez triple would see that runner around, however, and Chavez himself came home soon after on a Brandon Vidal base hit to leave the ‘Dogs in sixth with a 3-2 loss.
“We definitely had our chances,” head coach JJ Ortiz said Saturday. “But I was really happy with our players and how they played all game. Miyamura’s a really good team, and to hold the lead 1-0 for that long, then to lose it and come back and go ahead again, was great to see.”
Starter Kaden Chumbley finished with three hits and four strikeouts to his credit through six complete, and Estrada led the team at the plate, going 2-3 with one RBI.
“We put one of our best pitchers up to close it out, but it just didn’t happen. And that’s what I told the guys after the game – that’s the game of baseball. Sometimes that happens,” Ortiz said. “We played Cleveland in Hobbs and we benefited in the same situation we were in today, but today, Miyamura benefited. So now we know how it feels to win one of those and lose one of those.
“We’re going to move on from here and make some adjustments so that if we’re in that situation again, we’ll be able to take advantage of it.”
The Bulldogs opened the Classic Thursday evening with a 6-3 loss to Midland Lee, the sort of quality opponent Ortiz was glad to see this early in the year.
“They have three guys going to Division I, they have maybe two to three times the amount of students we do,” said the coach. “We’re never going to be happy with a loss, but we’ve played some of the best teams in our state and now some of the best teams in Texas, too – Midland Lee is, I think, No. 8 in Class 6A. So that was a good challenge for us.”
Friday morning saw the ‘Dogs continue their run through the Lone Star State opposite El Paso Burges.
Artesia picked up the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the second on a RBI single-turned-error by Collin Turner, then made it 3-0 in the third on a base hit by Martinez.
With starting pitcher Aaron Natera and his defense continuing to hold the Mustangs at bay, the Bulldogs added another insurance run in the fifth on another single by Martinez, and Favian Carrasco closed in the top of seven, seating the ‘Stangs in order.
Natera gave up even hits and K’d three in his six innings on the hill, while Martinez went 2-3 in the batter’s box with two RBI and Taylor Null – who was likely running on little sleep after driving back from the Class 5A State Basketball Tournament in Albuquerque for the occasion – was 2-4.
“He’s a senior wo’s been playing four years for us now, and we want him to get the most out of his senior year,” said Ortiz. “I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to drive back from Albuquerque and we’re going to give you the opportunity to play,’ because he’s only got 20 games left.
“Trent Taylor also stepped in from basketball and played well for us this weekend. We have some really good players and really good kids this year, so it’s just been a joy to be around them.”
The Bulldogs (3-3) will now prepare to host their 2018 home opener in the form of the Artesia Invitational March 15-17 at Brainard Park. The ‘Dogs are set to open Thursday against Kirtland Central and will be looking for continued improvement in their first competition on their home turf.
“All around, I was really pleased with the effort this weekend,” said Ortiz. “We’re getting better, we’ve got our basketball guys, we’re getting everybody involved. Like we told the guys, losing that last game wasn’t what we wanted, but we don’t need to dwell on the negative. Let’s look at the positives and go forward, and we’ll be better from it.
“Kirtland Central will be another good team. They love their baseball up there in the Four Corners, and they’re going to be a really good test for us. We played them last year in the opening round of state, so we’re expecting a really tough game.”