Published: 5:55 pm, Sun. Mar. 19th, 2017Updated: 5:53 pm
There are few better ways to shake off two tournaments’ worth of frustration than to win your home invitational amidst beautiful baseball weather in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
For the first time since 2010, the Diamond ‘Dogs did just that Saturday, edging out District 4-AAAAA foe Roswell High in the title tilt, 3-2, to cap off a much-needed three-win weekend with some well-deserved hardware.
“It was sure good for our team to get another win, and since it was our tournament, that’s even more special,” head coach Lee Johnson said following the bout.
The Artesia boys overcame an early 2-0 deficit to take what the Coyotes gave them Saturday and turn it into a one-run victory that bumped their season mark to 4-5.
Behind quality pitching from sophomore righty Trent Taylor, the Artesia defense shored up following Roswell’s two-run first to hold the Coyotes at bay through the remainder of the game.
“One thing I really liked about our team tonight was that we got down 2-0 in that first inning and didn’t panic,” Johnson said. “Like we told them, we had a lot of baseball left. We just chipped away. The other team made a couple of miscues, we took advantage of it, and we got a couple hits here and there again.
“We’re still not tearing the cover off the ball, but we’re doing enough to win. It sounds like a broken record, but when you can play good defense and get good pitching, you’re going to be in the game. You don’t have to score very many runs; you don’t have to get 12 hits to win. We got some key hits at key times tonight, which we hadn’t been getting in those first five games.”
A RBI double by Brandon Evans and an error in the outfield gave Roswell the early 2-0 lead Saturday, but the ‘Dogs would need just two at-bats to even the score.
A fielding error turned throwing error turned eventual out in the home half of the first didn’t end the inning until Taylor Null – on with a fielder’s choice – had had time to dart home from first, and a Dominic Madrid single to right in the second plated Tanner Harris, also aboard with a hit.
Artesia seated Roswell in order in the second and fourth innings before breaking the deadlock in the bottom of four on a fielder’s choice that became an error.
The Coyotes put the tying run 90 feet away in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice bunt and ground out, but a fly out to center ended the threat and the tournament.
Taylor surrendered just three hits on the night, striking out five and walking none. The sophomore also led the squad at the plate, going 2-3. Dominic Madrid was 1-2 with one RBI, and Null and Harris both went 1-3.
“Trent did a great job for us tonight,” said Johnson. “We thought in the third inning we might have to bring somebody else in, but he hung in there, we made a couple plays behind him, and he made some good pitches.”
The ‘Dogs reached Saturday’s championship by way of a 3-1 win over Deming Friday evening.
The teams went scoreless through three-and-a-half before a Jharyss Granger walk, a fielder’s choice, and a RBI single by Taylor combined to put Artesia on the board, and a wild pitch made it 2-0.
The Wildcats cut into that lead in the top of five on a stolen base turned error, but the boys in orange tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on a Jacob Orona RBI swat to left, then ended a Deming threat in the seventh with a 1-6-3 double play.
Senior Cody Fuentes went the distance on the mound in that bout, allowing five hits and striking out five.
The trio of wins were welcome for a team that looks to be finding its rhythm, tested and honed by close losses to some of the top teams in Class 6A to start the season.
“I’ve told them on multiple occasions, we can play with anybody in the state, any class,” Johnson said. “Playing this tough competition only makes you better. Our kids are pretty composed. You can’t get too up, too down – you have to just maintain an even keel and stay focused, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
“Our kids have played really well these last four games.”
The ‘Dogs will now prepare to head north to Rio Rancho for the Sal Puentes Memorial. They’ll open at 4 p.m. Thursday against Rio Grande.
“We’ve just got to keep improving,” said Johnson. “We’ve got a short week this next week. We’ll get up Wednesday morning and go to Albuquerque, and we’re looking forward to enjoying this one and then getting ready to go play Rio Grande.”