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There’s nothing like the 16-team gamut that is the Southern New Mexico Invitational in Las Cruces to kick off a season.

Any coach up in the air about where their team stands post-offseason doesn’t have to wonder for long in a tournament that features the top Class 6A and 5A talent the state has to offer.
In the space of just two days, the Lady Bulldog softball team got an early look at county nemesis Carlsbad as well as two other 6A opponents, and the results were encouraging as Artesia went 2-2 overall for a seventh-place finish.

“We looked good,” second-year head coach Sandra Pulido said Saturday. “We have some things that we need to improve on, definitely, but being that these were our first games on some of the first days we’ve had the whole team together since we got the girls that came from basketball, we played pretty well overall.”

The girls in orange ran into some stiff competition in their opener Friday afternoon against Las Cruces High.

Junior ace Kacey Thurman threw well against the Lady Bulldawgs, but Artesia wasn’t able to keep pace offensively.

“Kacey pitched a good game, they just kind of had a couple hits that dropped in, and there wasn’t much we could do on defense about that,” Pulido said. “And after about the second inning, we weren’t really putting the ball in play as much as we would’ve liked to, so they just kept scoring and we didn’t.”

The Lady Bulldogs fell 8-2 in that contest, pairing them with Gadsden at 5 p.m. Friday.

“We did a lot better offensively against them,” Pulido said. “We did great on defense, but that’s not something we really have big problems with. Kali Crandall came out and threw a shutout for us. Only two girls hit the ball and the rest were Ks, so she did really well in the circle in that game.”

Artesia dispatched the Lady Panthers 10-0 in six innings to stay in the main bracket, where Carlsbad awaited at noon Saturday.

The Lady Bulldogs got their licks in, with Crandall, Mada Asbury and Melody Payne all logging home runs, but the Cavegirls were able to pull away in the end, 9-4.

“Kacey threw well again in that game, and our bats were basically where we need them to be,” said Pulido. “At the same time, we have to make the adjustments at the plate.”

The girls in orange closed out their tournament run by making short work of Las Vegas Robertson late Saturday afternoon, 15-1 in five innings.

With a quick and valuable shot of experience now behind them, the Artesia girls will prepare Tuesday to head to Alamogordo for a 4:30 p.m. game against the Lady Tigers.

“We just want to carry over our energy and attitude from this last game against Robertson,” Pulido said. “Hopefully, we can keep hitting the ball the way we were at the end of the tournament. Our pitchers are throwing the way they need to throw, and we really should be fine as long as we stay up and play our game.

“I’m proud of the girls and the way they came out to start this year. I think we’re going to mesh well, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the season has for us. I feel like with the girls we have coming back, we’ll be on a really good track to get the blue this year.”