The 2018 Bulldog baseball team made its season opener at the Hobbs Round Robin a thrill ride for the fans — and likely the nerves of new head coach JJ Ortiz and his staff — coming back from a 5-0 deficit in the first inning and an 8-3 gap after five-and-a-half to defeat Class 6A second-ranked Cleveland 9-8 in eight innings.
Senior Miguel Martinez was the catalyst for the ‘Dogs late, coming on to pitch in the top of the seventh and shutting the Storm down in order in his two innings of work for the W on the hill. Martinez then proceeded to deliver the walk-off hit to right in the bottom of the eighth, plating Kaden Chumbley — aboard with a fielder’s choice bunt — and securing the win.
It’s safe to say much was learned about the ‘18 squad — which is still awaiting the addition of athletes participating in basketball — over the course of the bout, and while a few weaknesses were inevitably and beneficially exposed, a clear sense of perseverance and focus were, as well.
The boys in orange could easily have thrown in the towel early, as Cleveland came out swinging, racking up five runs in the top of the first alone.
On six hits, and with help from a pair of errors, the Storm batted around en route to their commanding lead, and when a Chumbley infield single in the home half was all the Bulldogs could manage, it looked as though the contest might be headed for an abbreviated end.
But starting pitcher Chumbley and his defense would settle in over the next three innings, holding the Storm scoreless in the second, third and fourth. The ‘Dogs, meanwhile, trimmed Cleveland’s advantage to two, 5-3, in the second, completing the order and manufacturing runs on a pair of errors and a bases-loaded walk by catcher Robert Fernandez.
The Storm would tack one on in the top of five on a Colten Madison sac-fly, then added what they hoped would be a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on an unfortunate turn of events, as back-to-back pop flys were lost in the lights by the Bulldog defense and fell untouched for a RBI double and single respectively by Robert Healy and Jaren Jackson.
Artesia was undaunted, however, pulling back within one in the bottom of the sixth, 8-7, on an error, a two-RBI single to left by Collin Turner, and a RBI knock by Chumbley. And with the game on the line in the bottom of seven, Martinez led off with a single to right, advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by Cleveland closer Healy, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by AJ Estrada.
A strikeout, ground out back to Martinez, and fly out to Estrada in right-center quickly ended the top of the eighth, and the Bulldogs would load the bases with no outs in the home half on a Turner walk, a dropped ball at second as the Storm attempted to eliminate the lead runner on a Chumbley bunt, and an infield single from Fernandez.
Turner was put out at home on an AJ Ferguson fielder’s choice, but Chumbley would scamper home in the next at-bat: Martinez’s base hit to right.
Martinez finished with no hits or runs and one K in his two innings on the mound and was 2-4 at the plate on the evening with one RBI. Second-baseman Cooper Flores also went 2-4 on the game, and Chumbley was 2-5 with one run batted in.