. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Lady Bulldogs pose for a photo following their final district sweep Friday in Lovington. (Courtesy Photo)

The Lady Bulldog softball team did its level best to beat the weather Friday in Lovington, run-ruling the Lady Wildcats of Lovington 13-1 and 10-0 in their final District 4-AAAAA games of the year.

And with that, the girls in orange also laid their claim to the 2017 district crown with a final D4 record of 10-2, finally knocking off runner-up and defending district champ Roswell High (9-3).

“This season, for some, we experienced a lot of firsts, and for our seniors, it was, ‘We haven’t done this in three years,’” head coach Sandra Pulido said Saturday. “It’s been three years since we won our invitational and three years since we won district.

“It’s great for our seniors to experience that one more time.”

The Artesia girls continued to prove their late-season offensive prowess in Friday’s double header, racking up 23 total hits, four of which were launched over the fence and five more of which went for extra bases.

Junior pitcher Kali Crandall got the slugfest started in the top of the first in Game One with a two-run bomb, and the Lady ‘Dogs tacked on four more runs in the second on a Stacia Martinez single, a Kacey Thurman sac-fly, an error, and a double from Adrianna Baeza.

An Alexa Riggs fielder’s choice in the third scored the game’s seventh run, and the Lady Bulldogs made it official in the top of five, batting around to take a 13-0 lead.

A Gabrielle Gomez solo homer kicked off that at-bat, and Thurman followed with a three-run shot of her own. An error saw Run No. 12 across the plate, and Gomez singled in the 13th in her second trip to the plate of the inning.

Lovington was able to fend off the shutout in the home half, scoring on a double by leadoff Addison Marquez, but a ground out to Riggs at short and a pair of Crandall Ks ended the contest.

Crandall finished with five hits, one earned run, and five strikeouts to her credit through five innings, while Gomez was perfect at the plate, going 3-3 with two RBI and missing the cycle by a triple. Aubree Olguin and Martinez were both 2-3, Martinez with one run batted in.

“Kali Crandall pitched the first game for us,” said Pulido. “She threw well, and we played great defense behind her. We scored in every inning except the fourth.

“We hit the ball hard and did what we needed to do as an offense to give Kali enough cushion in the circle. It was a great team win.”

For Crandall’s next trick, she repeated her opening-at-bat performance from Game One in the nightcap, once again sending a two-run homer sailing into the increasingly-chilly night to start Artesia off on the right paw.

Baeza followed with a double and would cross on  a Gomez ground out, and the Lady Bulldogs made it 5-0 in the second on a two-run blast by Thurman.

With Thurman also holding the Lady Wildcats at bay in the circle, a leadoff triple in the third by Melody Payne became a run on a sac-fly by Elisa Cardenas, and Artesia went up 8-0 in the fifth on a Thurman two-RBI double.

Artesia seated Lovington in order in the bottom of the fifth on a K, a ground out, and a pop-up, and they would secure the run-rule margin in the sixth on one final tater, a two-runner by Gomez.

Thurman gave up two hits, no runs, and struck out seven in her six-inning shutout while also leading the squad at the plate with a 3-4, four-RBI performance that was also a triple short of the cycle. Crandall went 1-2 with a homer and two RBI, and Chanler Groves, Baeza and Payne were all 2-4, Baeza with a double and Payne with everyone’s missing triple.

“Kacey Thurman pitched a great game for us in the second game,” said Pulido. “She is peaking at the right time this season, in the circle and in the batter’s box.

“We left more runners on in the second game than we like, but luckily, it didn’t hurt us too much.”

The Lady Bulldogs (19-6) will now have a well-deserved week to catch their breath and regroup following a marathon run through district play. The Class 5A state seeding and selection meeting for softball is slated for Sunday, May 7, and as the champions of District 4, the Lady ‘Dogs will be assured of a bye through the single-elimination round into the double-elimination bracket at the May 11-13 state tournament.

“I cannot express how proud we are of these girls and this team,” Pulido said. “They have worked hard for this, and it shows in how they play but also the relationship they all have. They have a close bond, and that alone will take us far.”