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Jacob Orona belts a base hit during the second inning Tuesday at Brainard Park. Orona finished 3-5 with two RBI on the double header. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Bulldog baseball team got its 2017 District 4-AAAAA slate off to a solid start Tuesday at Brainard Park, overcoming a shaky start that required a come-from-behind, 3-2 win over Lovington in Game One of the teams’ double header to handle the Wildcats easily in the nightcap, 7-1.

A rash of uncharacteristic errors caused the bulk of the ‘Dogs’ difficulties in the opener, but the squad was mistake-free in the field in Game Two.

“We had a couple of miscues in that first game that gave them some runs and extra outs, but we were able to overcome it and had some guys come off the bench and contribute in a positive way,” head coach Lee Johnson said today. “We were able to scratch out that first win, and I was pleased with our kids in that we kept battling and played till the last out to get the win.”

Errors from the opposing side – two in as many at-bats – helped Artesia get on the board early in the contest.

The two errant throws put runners on second and third for cleanup batter Jharyss Granger, whose towering fly ball to center got caught in the wind but still resulted in a run, as Trent Taylor tagged up and scampered home.

The Wildcats answered in the top of two, however, on a Dominic Marquez single, an Omar Holguin double, and a RBI base hit by Isaiah Valdez, then would take a 2-1 lead in the fourth on back-to-back errors.

Artesia left runners stranded in scoring position in their second and fourth at-bats but were able to reinstate the deadlock in the bottom of five when Taylor beat out a two-out infield single, advanced to second and third on a Taylor Null walk and a wild pitch, and crossed on a hard-hit single to left by Granger.

Null also appeared to score on the play, getting his hand across the plate prior to the tag being landed on his shoulder, but was ruled out to end the inning.

Fortunately, as relief pitcher Miguel Martinez kept the Lovington hitters on their heels, the Bulldogs were able to put together another solid at-bat in the sixth.

Robert Fernandez led off with a line drive to center and was bunted to second by Tanner Harris. An error saw him to third, and a base hit to left by AJ Estrada got the job done to make it 3-2 Artesia.

Martinez seated the ‘Cats in order in the top of seven, with two strikeouts and a ground ball to first, to end the game.

The junior pitcher also took the W on the game, giving up one hit and no runs, striking out five and walking none in his three innings of work. Starter Favian Carrasco had three hits, one earned run, and three Ks to his credit.

At the plate, Estrada was 1-1 with one RBI, Jacob Orona 2-3, and Granger 1-2 with two runs batted in.

Both teams got off to a slow start in the second game Tuesday, but the Bulldogs finally found their rhythm in the third en route to a more decisive victory.

“We started hitting the ball a little better and got some decent pitching,” Johnson said. “We threw some different guys in there, and for the most part, I was pleased with the effort. We played better defense. We let a ball drop in foul that should’ve been caught, but that’s stuff you can always fix and work on.”

The nightcap went scoreless through two-and-a-half, with the Bulldogs leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of two. But a leadoff single by Cody Fuentes in the third sparked Artesia’s first scoring effort of the game.

Fuentes was put out on a fielder’s choice, but a Null single and an error saw one run home, and a RBI ground out by Orona plated a second. Two more Bulldogs would come around in the fourth on a passed ball and a Taylor sacrifice fly.

Martinez, meanwhile, picked up where he’d left off, throwing four scoreless innings to start Game Two and putting the ‘Cats down in order in each. He gave way to the first of four relievers in the top of five.

Sophomore Kaden Chumbley walked the ‘Cats’ leadoff batter and gave up a single before stepping down for classmate JR Bustamante, who finished out the inning. Lovington was able to log its lone run on an infield single but would be held scoreless from there, as sophomore Taylor pitched the sixth and senior Fuentes closed the contest out in the seventh.

The ‘Dogs added three more insurance runs in their final two at-bats on an Orona single up the middle, an error, and a RBI double to left-center by Null.

“We had some kids again come off the bench in that game and play well, and that’s what you’ve gotta have in a team – people you can bring in there at a moment’s notice who hopefully contribute,” said Johnson. “I keep telling them in practice, ‘You’re gonna get a chance. Even if you’re over here on the bench, at some point, you’re gonna get a chance,’ and some kids did last night, and we had a positive outcome.”

Martinez gave up no hits, no walks, and struck out one in his four innings on the hill, while Fernandez, Orona and Dominic Madrid – all 1-2, Orona with two RBI – and Null – 2-4 with a double and one run batted in – led at the plate.

With the sweep, the Bulldogs improve to 7-9 on the season, 2-0 in district play, while Lovington (3-13) drops to 0-2 in the district.

The ‘Dogs will now prepare to take on Goddard (12-4, 2-0) at 5 and 7 p.m. Friday in Roswell in a double dip that will determine the lead in the district.

“We’re 2-0 and tied with Goddard, and now we get to go face them Friday up there,” said Johnson. “We’re looking forward to that. It’s going to be a good test for us, because Goddard’s always good. It should be a good competition.”

The Rockets swept Roswell High in their district-opening double header Tuesday, 8-0 and 7-4. Artesia and Goddard met March 25 in the seventh-place game of the Sal Puentes Memorial in Rio Rancho, with the ‘Dogs leading the Rockets until the latter innings in an 8-5 loss.

“The first time we played them, we had some miscues and gave them some extra outs, and they capitalized,” Johnson said. “If you do that with a good team, most of the time they’ll make you pay for it, and they did. This is a usual Goddard team. They’re well-coached, and they have a lot of pitchers. They always do, more so, I think, than any other team, but whoever they throw out there, we’ll give it our all and do our best.

“They’ve looked to me like they’ve been hitting the ball well, so we’ll just have to go up there and see what happens. I think our kids are confidence, and we’ll get a couple days of good practice in before we face them.”