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Taylor Null power-slides into third on a hit-and-run attempt in the bottom of the third. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

There’s a monkey loose somewhere in Carlsbad today, and the Bulldog baseball team is glad to be rid of him.

The Artesia boys finally put the runs on the board to accompany their continued stellar defense Saturday in the seventh-place game of the Caveman Classic, notching their first win of 2017, 2-1, over El Paso Burges.

Now, with a welcome sigh of relief, the ‘Dogs will look to keep the trend going as they prepare to kick off their home invitational this week at Brainard Park.

“I was happy with the way our kids battled,” head coach Lee Johnson said Saturday. “We played great defense again. We turned a double play in the fourth and then threw a kid out at home on a double-steal attempt behind good pitching.

“We still didn’t wear the ball out like we’d like to, but if you put it in play enough, something’s bound to happen. They had a couple of throwing errors that cost them some runs, and we finally got a couple of breaks.”

Sophomore pitcher Favian Carrasco gets ready to make a bare-hand grab as first baseman Jharyss Granger finds the bag during the fourth inning Saturday in Carlsbad. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Leadoff hitter Cody Fuentes created the first one in the ‘Dogs’ inaugural at-bat, beating out an infield single and stealing second to give Artesia a runner in scoring position.

A pickoff attempt flew wide, allowing Fuentes to scamper to third, and with Taylor Null on first with a single, the Bulldogs were able to create some confusion amongst the Mustang defense, executing a double-steal that made it 1-0.

Burges answered in the top of the second on a balk, but the boys in orange would take advantage of three more El Paso errors in the bottom of the inning to go up 2-1, and that score would hold through the remainder of the bout.

The ‘Dogs placed runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings but couldn’t add to their tally. Defensively, with starting sophomore pitcher Favian Carrasco racking up strikeouts and grounders against the Mustang bats, Artesia thwarted a double-steal attempt in the fifth and negated a leadoff single in the sixth with a double play to keep themselves out of danger.

With sophomore Trent Taylor on the mound to close in the top of the seventh, Burges was able to put runners on second and third with two outs, but a K ended the threat, the game, and the weekend.

Fuentes led the ‘Dogs at the plate, going 2-3 with a double, while Null was 1-2 with a walk. Carrasco got the W on the hill with two hits and four walks allowed through six complete, along with five strikeouts.

“I think our team ERA right now is 2, and you can’t beat that,” said Johnson. “We’re real pleased with where we are right now pitching wise and defensively.”

Artesia will be looking to break out at the plate this week at the Artesia Invitational, where they’ll open Thursday against Belen. Also making their way to Brainard Park will be Deming, Los Alamos, Roswell High, Lovington, Moriarty and Santa Teresa.

“Santa Teresa is tough; we saw them in Carlsbad, and they have some good pitchers and good players,” Johnson said. “Deming beat Centennial already this year, and I think Belen’s 6-0, so there’s some quality teams coming.

“I’m excited. It looks like we’re going to have good weather, temperatures in the 80s, and it’ll be really good for our kids to be at home. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fans there.”

Most importantly, the tournament will provide an excellent chance for the boys in orange to continue to build on the solid work they’ve done thus far this season against a barrage of quality opponents.

“I’m proud of our kids for hanging in there,” said Johnson. “Five losses really wears on you, not just the kids but the coaches, and I’m just proud of the way our kids played. If we can keep playing like that and add a few more hits, we’re going to be tough.”