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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bulldog baseball sweeps Lovington

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The Bulldog baseball team greets JR Bustamante, center, at the plate following the junior’s first of two home runs in Game One against Lovington Friday at Brainard Park. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Coming off of a somewhat surprising District 4-AAAAA split with Roswell High Tuesday at Coke Field, the Bulldog baseball team was looking to right the ship Friday at home.

The Artesia boys had made short work of Lovington in their district-opening double header April 10 on the road and needed a repeat performance to get back on track and prepared for a showdown with district-leading and Class 5A top-ranked Goddard this week.

The wind was raging for Game One at Brainard Park, but the ‘Dogs were unflapped, charging out to a 12-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, then capping the five-inning run rule with 10 more over the course of their third and fourth at-bats to win 22-0.

They kept the hit parade – which totaled 30 before the evening was done – going in the nightcap en route to the sweep, 13-2.

“We made some adjustments in practice, talked about how we needed to make some adjustments at the plate, and we kind of went through some different scenarios as far as adjusting to different pitchers,” head coach JJ Ortiz said of his team’s strategy following their previous outing. “It paid off, I think.”

Artesia, who posted an uncharacteristic two hits in their loss to Roswell last week, certainly proved themselves capable at the plate Friday, also racking up 30 RBI on the day, 21 in the first game alone.

“We’re really happy with the way we hit the ball yesterday,” Ortiz said. “Like I told our guys, it doesn’t matter what pitcher’s up there when you hit like that, and we really hit the ball hard all day.”

After going down in order in their first trip to the plate, the Bulldogs found their rhythm in the second, with cleanup batter Aaron Natera – who tied the state record for home runs in a single game with four in his last meeting with the Wildcats – providing the spark: a leadoff solo shot.

A pair of outs came next but were followed by a two-out rally in every sense of the phrase, as the ‘Dogs came close to batting around twice in the half-inning.

Miguel Martinez tripled and was singled in by JR Bustamante. A two-RBI double by Trent Taylor was followed by a RBI triple and double respectively from Cooper Flores and Taylor Null, and after Robert Fernandez and Martinez posted a two-RBI double and triple of their own – Martinez’s second three-bagger of the at-bat – Bustamante sent a two-run homer over the fence to quickly make it 12-0 Artesia.

A 13th run came around in the third when Null, aboard with a triple, scored on a wild pitch, and the Bulldogs batted around again in the fourth, with Bustamante posting another two-run tater, Flores, Null and Natera consecutive doubles for four total RBI, Fernandez a sac-fly, and Jacob Orona a two-RBI single.

Bustamante owned the mound in the contest, as well, shutting the Wildcats out through five innings of work, allowing just four hits and striking out six.

He finished 3-4 at the plate, as did Martinez and Null, Orona went 3-3, and Natera was 2-2.

Game Two saw the Bulldogs open up a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a double-steal and a RBI triple, single and double respectively by Bustamante, Orona and Taylor, then make it 8-1 in the home half of the third on a Martinez two-RBI triple, a Bustamante double, and a RBI infield single from Null.

Lovington added a second run in the top of the fourth, but the ‘Dogs secured the run-rule margin in the bottom of the inning on a wild pitch, an error, and a Null two-RBI single. Artesia held the Wildcats scoreless in the top of five to close out the win, 12-2.

Orona got the win on the hill with two hits and two Ks through three complete, and AJ Ferguson closed things out with two hits through two. Martinez and Bustamante were both 2-2 at the plate and Null 2-3.

“We were just really happy about our execution in those games,” Ortiz said. “We executed some hit-and-runs, got some guys moving around on the bases, and we really did a lot of good things.

“We wish the weather could have been a little nicer and more fans could’ve been there, but we were really happy with the support we got from the community. We also want to thank the Little League teams for coming out and supporting us. That’s our future, so we were excited to see them there and hope they can come back out Friday or make the trip to Roswell Tuesday to support us over there.”

With the wins, Artesia improved to 13-9 on the season, 6-2 in district play as they prepare for a rematch with Goddard. The ‘Dogs split with the Rockets April 13 at home.

“The last couple of years, after the Goddard games, we’ve just had a tough time in the next double header, and that’s what happened to us against Roswell,” Ortiz said. “We’re at such a high for Goddard, and after that, we just don’t seem to respond well. So we told the guys that’s something we’re going to have to get better at this week and make sure we’re responding game to game and opponent to opponent.

“If we can put on a hitting performance like we did against Lovington, we’ll be fine Tuesday, but we’re just looking to improve and give them our best shot.”

The ‘Dogs will take on the Rockets at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Goddard.

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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