The Bulldog baseball team saw a regular season’s worth of work against some of the best squads in the state pay off Friday in Game One of their District 4-AAAAA double header against Goddard.
The boys in orange got a stunning no-hitter from freshman pitcher JR Bustamonte against the top-ranked team in Class 5A and a fifth-inning, two-out double from center-fielder Grady Frost to topple the Rockets 2-0 before an enthusiastic Brainard Park crowd.
And while the nightcap didn’t go as smoothly, with a few breaks and missed opportunities adding up to a 6-1 loss, it was a solid evening for a Bulldog team looking to put it all together when it matters most.
“Getting a no-hitter in that first one against Goddard was exciting,” head coach Lee Johnson said Saturday. “We played real good defense in that game. I think we had 11 ground-ball outs, about six fly-outs, four strikeouts, and three walks, so just over the minimum for a perfect game.
“We told the kids that to beat those guys, we’d have to play a perfect game, and except for one error, it was about as good as we’ve played and pitched all in the same game. We got a clutch hit or two, and that was the difference in the game. I was really pleased with the way we played”
With Bustamonte defusing the Rockets in order in their first three trips to the plate, the ‘Dogs threatened in the first and fourth innings with singles from Cody Fuentes and Robert Fernandez but left a trio stranded in scoring position.
Goddard put their first man on second in the fourth but were thwarted by a 5-U-3 double play by Miguel Martinez, and the boys in blue again went down one, two, three in the top of five.
With one away in the home half, a Martinez walk and single by Fuentes put a pair on the pond, and while a fielder’s choice moved the opening run 90 feet away, it also gave Artesia its second out.
Frost would end the suspense, however, by belting a double to send both Martinez and Taylor Null across the plate, and it proved to be the deciding shot. A pair of walks in the top of the sixth were compensated for by a strikeout and ground out back to the pitcher, and ground outs to Dominic Madrid at short and Fuentes at second, and a fly out to Frost in center closed the book.
The win marked Bustamonte’s second no-no of the season, his first coming March 19 against Mayfield in the third-place game of the Artesia Invitational.
Fuentes finished 2-3 at the plate on the night, and Frost and Fernandez 1-2.
Buoyed by their opening victory, the Bulldogs jumped on the Rockets early in Game Two Friday, with a trio of singles by Fuentes, Jharyss Granger and Carlos Carrasco loading the bases and a Fernandez squeeze bunt making it 1-0 in the bottom of the first.
The Rockets would rally in the second, however, with a leadoff double by Derek Farmer and Gaylan Young single. Farmer was awarded home plate on a called balk, a RBI ground out saw Young across, and a two-run homer over the center-field fence by No. 9 batter Andrew Shanor gave Goddard a 4-1 lead.
That score would hold through six complete before the Rockets tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of seven on a two-base throwing error on a Shanor bunt and a Cal Villareal RBI fielder’s choice.
Artesia put their leadoff hitter on in the bottom half on an error, but a fielder’s choice became a double play when the runner heading through first base was ruled to have made a move toward second on the turn and was tagged out.
The sophomore Martinez took the loss on the mound with four hits and four earned runs allowed through one and two-thirds, and Granger pitched five and one-third in relief with two hits, no earned runs, and four strikeouts. Fuentes again led the ‘Dogs at the plate, going 1-2 with a walk.
“The second game didn’t turn out quite like we wanted it to, but we were facing their No. 1 pitcher, and he’s a good one – one of the best in the state,” said Johnson. “You just have to tip your hat to them. They didn’t lay down after that first game.”
Johnson feels the Bulldogs’ win in Game One, however, should provide a healthy burst of momentum heading into a week-long road trip that begins Tuesday.
“I think that win did us a lot of good,” said the coach. “If we don’t have any slip-ups between here and there, we should be meeting Goddard again toward the end with a chance to win a district championship.
“It’s exciting to beat the No. 1-ranked team. The kids were excited, the crowd was excited, and they should be. That’s why we played all those tough teams in pre-district; we’re not opposed to playing anybody. I think it’ll help us in the long run after we’re finished with district, but we’ve got eight games left in district and a lot of baseball between now and that point.”
The ‘Dogs (8-9, 3-1) will take on Roswell High at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Coke Field in Roswell, then will head to Lovington Friday for a 5 and 7 p.m. double dip against the Wildcats. Artesia will return to the Alien City April 26 for a 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. rematch with the Rockets before hosting their district finale at 5 and 7 p.m. April 29 against the Coyotes at Brainard Park.
“Roswell High was in our tournament, and they’ve got some good players,” Johnson said. “We just have to go out there and play each game like it’s against the best team you’re going to play, and if we get good pitching and defense, and a clutch hit here and there, hopefully things will go our way.”