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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Lady ‘Dog softball hits stride versus Lovington

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Lady Bulldog sophomore pitcher Kacey Thurman fires a strike over the plate during Game One Friday at The Mack. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)
Lady Bulldog sophomore pitcher Kacey Thurman fires a strike over the plate during Game One Friday at The Mack. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog softball team showed signs Tuesday against Goddard of the team they’ve been trying to become over the course of the 2016 season. They knew their truest test, however, would come Friday against a Lovington team with whom they split in their first meeting on the road.

Following their 10-8 loss in Game One April 19, the Artesia girls just edged the Lady Wildcats 3-1 in the second outing.

But there would be no doubts as to the outcomes Friday.

With help from a whopping seven home runs amidst 26 total hits and five- and six-hit pitching performances between a trio of athletes in the circle, the Lady ‘Dogs ended their regular season on a high note at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex, sweeping Lovington in two five-inning affairs, 13-2 and 14-4.

“That’s the team we’ve been talking about all season,” head coach Sandra Pulido said Saturday. “It was very good for them to finally see that team show up.

“We started off hot on Tuesday against Goddard and just kept it going into Friday, and it was great to see. The girls noticed it, as well, and that should give us a big boost of confidence.”

The girls in orange wasted no time introducing themselves to the fences Friday, with Ale Flores sending one over the left-field wall in the bottom of the first in Game One. The longball sparked a two-out rally, with Cassandro Trujillo singling up the middle, then scoring on a two-base error, and Gabrielle Gomez coming around on a base hit by Kacey Thurman to make it 3-0.

Three more Lady ‘Dog runs crossed the plate in the second inning on a three-RBI home run by Adrianna Baeza that scored Stacia Martinez and Elisa Cardenas – on with a single and double respectively.

Lovington got on the board in the top of three on a RBI triple by pitcher Ashly Sanchez and a Zairrion Granger single, but Artesia went right back to work in the home half, logging a two-run tater by catcher Melody Payne and a Flores RBI single to go up 9-2.

With Thurman holding the Wildcats scoreless in the fourth, the Lady Bulldogs were able to put the run-rule in play in the bottom of the fourth, with two runs scoring on a Baeza single and two more on a double to left by Trujillo. Lovington went down in order in the top of five to seal the deal, 13-2.

The Lady Bulldogs’ top four batters – Cardenas, Baeza, Flores and Trujillo – were all 2-4 on the game with nine RBI between them, and Payne went 1-2. Thurman had five hits and two earned runs to her credit through five complete, striking out five.

The Lady ‘Cats were able to draw first blood in the second inning of the nightcap on a solo homer by Granger, then went up 3-0 in the top of three on a two-run shot over the left-center-field fence by Hannah Lizardo.

Artesia would bat around in the home half, however, pounding out 10 runs on 11 hits to take a quick and devastating seven-run lead. The Lady ‘Dogs launched three two-run homers in the at-bat, courtesy of Gracie Puentes, Payne and Baeza.

The girls in orange tacked on an insurance run in the fourth on a Martinez RBI ground out and Lovington answered in the top of five on an error to make it 11-4. But a run scored on a two-base error in the bottom of the fifth was followed by a walk-off two-run shot by Puentes – her second of the game – that closed the book, 14-4.

Payne was 3-3 at the plate on the game and Puentes 3-4, while freshman McKayla Liles took the win in the circle with six hits and three earned runs through four. Junior Shyann Spence, on in relief in the fifth, gave up one walk and struck out one.

“We finally have started doing the little things right,” said Pulido. “We’ve had games this season where our defense is on but not our hitting, our pitching is on but our defense isn’t, or vice versa. But these last four games, our pitching’s been where it needs to be, our defense has been stellar, and the bats have come alive.

“We had a couple of girls hit their first home runs ever last night, which was really exciting. We don’t practice for home runs. We focus more on line drives and base hits, but we always tell the girls, if you just put the ball in play and make good contact, it’s eventually going to go over.”

The Lady Bulldogs (15-11, 7-5) will now await the results of Sunday’s seeding and selection meetings to learn where they’ll fall in the Class 5A State Tournament Bracket.

“We’ve been sitting at a steady 10 spot, but with the way we’ve played this week, there’s a chance we could move up and hopefully host,” Pulido said. “But either way, we’ll be happy to be wherever we are. We just have to work hard and keep winning. And the girls have that confidence now, which is what we need going into next week.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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