Published: 11:07 am, Wed. Apr. 6th, 2016Updated: 11:04 am
Through five innings Tuesday at Brainard Park, the Bulldog baseball team held Class 6A Hobbs scoreless.
Behind a solid performance on the mound from sophomore Miguel Martinez, the ‘Dogs seated the Eagles in order in their first three trips to the plate and thwarted two runners in scoring position in the fourth.
Artesia, despite struggling on offense themselves, had picked up a run in the bottom of the second, and it was looking as though it might be enough to see them through.
Then came the top of the sixth.
Hobbs broke the game wide open in the marathon half-inning, batting around and plating seven. A trio of insurance runs in the seventh later, the Eagles had made a come-from-behind effort look like a runaway, 10-1.
“For five innings, everything was going really good,” Bulldog head coach Lee Johnson said today. “We played good defense up to that point, Miguel was pitching really well… it’s amazing how one pitch and one hit can kind of turn a game around, but it did for them.”
That hit – a leadoff triple in the sixth by Hobbs’ No. 9 batter Caden Smith, sparked the rally that carried the Eagles to victory.
With Martinez serving up ground outs to keep Hobbs at bay, the ‘Dogs were able to put a runner on third with one away in the second with help from a balk and a wild pitch. A ground ball to second by Clay Donaghe scored the run, and Artesia had a chance to do further damage after back-to-back walks loaded the bases. A pop fly, however, ended the threat.
The Eagles, meanwhile, got consecutive singles from Jaden Hutchins and Devin Beard in the fourth, but the two were left stranded to preserve the Bulldogs’ 1-0 lead.
A 5-4-3 double play in the fifth took Artesia two innings away from sealing the deal, but Smith’s triple proved to be the monkey wrench. Following a walk, a RBI fielder’s choice tied the game, and the Eagles kept on rolling from there, making it 4-1 on a Jeremy Padilla two-RBI single and a passed ball.
Martinez gave way to CJ Imparato, but Hobbs was able to fire one last shot in the at-bat, a bases-clearing double-turned-error by Smith that sent the Bulldogs into their penultimate at-bat trailing by six. A leadoff walk by Jharyss Granger was erased by a fielder’s choice, and a strikeout and fly ball to left quickly brought the Eagles back to the plate. They ran the lineup once again, plating three more on a Beard double, a passed ball, and a Gavin Hardison single.
The Bulldogs would fall in order in the seventh.
“They had the top of their order coming up after that hit in the sixth, and their first four guys are pretty good hitters,” said Johnson. “They took advantage of that, and it took us a long time to even get two outs in that inning.
“You have to tip your hat to the other team. They hung around, they battled, and their pitcher did a good job of not letting us score any more runs. We didn’t take advantage of some opportunities early when we had the bases loaded. I think we could have knocked their pitcher out, but that’s baseball. We didn’t make it happen, and they did.”
Martinez took the loss with four hits and six earned runs allowed through five and one-third innings, while David Ortega logged a two-hitter for Hobbs through seven complete.
With the loss in its regular-season finale, Artesia dropped to 5-8 on the season but will be quickly putting Tuesday in their rearview mirror as they prepare for the ones that count – District 4-AAAAA play begins April 12 against Lovington at Brainard Park.
“You have to forget about that loss and get ready for Tuesday,” said Johnson. “Our new season starts Tuesday, and we’re going to be looking forward to that.”
In the week-long interim, Johnson says the squad will be zeroing in on their hitting.
“We have to start hitting,” said the coach. “We hit a lot in practice, but obviously it’s not transitioning over into the game, so we’re going to keep working and hopefully something will click. We’re going to have to turn that around starting Tuesday.
“We work hard in practice. We don’t take any days off, and we’re always trying to get better, so we’ll just have a good hard week and get ready for Lovington.”
The 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. double header April 12 will also mark Little League Night at Brainard.
“There should be a ton of people there, so it’ll be an exciting way to start district,” said Johnson