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Spring has arrived in Artesia. And if you need further proof, just head to Brainard Park Thursday, Friday and Saturday, where the wind will be blowing in the 2018 Artesia Invitational baseball tournament.

The Diamond ‘Dogs will, as is their tradition, make their first home appearances of the season at the Invite, which this year features some of the top teams in the state.

“We’re really excited about the teams that are coming,” Artesia head coach JJ Ortiz said this morning.

Ortiz’s first home invitational as head coach of the boys in orange brings District 4-AAAAA opponents Roswell High and Lovington to town, along with Class 5A Deming, Belen, Los Alamos and Kirtland Central, and Class 4A Moriarty.

Lovington and Roswell will square off in the tourney’s first bout at 10 a.m. Thursday. Both squads have struggled early in 2018, and the Wildcats (0-5) will be seeking their first win following losses to Denver City and Levelland, Texas, Valencia, Miyamura and El Paso Burges.

The Coyotes (1-4) also opened their campaign on a losing streak, falling to Gadsden in a double header, Goddard and Cibola. Roswell logged their first win Saturday in the Southwest Baseball Classic seventh-place game against Taos, 7-3.

The 1 p.m. game will find Deming in a showdown with Belen that will no doubt have all of 5A watching.

“Belen and Deming are both in the top 10 in 5A,” Ortiz said. “They have played and beaten some of the better teams in our division. “Deming beat St. Pius, which is one of the top three teams in the state, and Belen beat Academy, another really good team.”

The Wildcats (4-3) topped the Sartans 5-4 Friday at the New Mexico Invitational in Las Cruces. Prior to that, the ‘Cats were 2-2 with a double header sweep of Silver and losses to Centennial and Rio Rancho. Since, they’ve gone 1-1, splitting with Mayfield, 0-8 and 5-3.

Belen (8-2), meanwhile, kicked off their season on a 5-0 run with wins over Alamogordo (twice), Gallup, Academy and Santa Fe. They were tripped up by Hope Christian March 2, 14-12, but have since topped Aztec, Farmington and Montrose, Colo., with their second loss coming Saturday to Uintah, Utah.

“We wanted to have some of the better teams in Class 5A here so we could compete against them,” Ortiz said. “Getting to play one of those two would be a good test for us, and hopefully we get to if we do our job.”

At 4 p.m. Thursday, Moriarty (0-6) and Los Alamos (4-3) will meet. The Pintos will also be looking for their inaugural victory of 2018, having fallen to Aztec, Miyamura, Grants, Academy, St. Michael’s and West Las Vegas. The Hilltoppers come in at 4-3 with wins over Shiprock, Santa Fe and Sandia  Prep (twice), and losses to Centennial, Onate and Hope Christian.

The Bulldogs (3-3), meanwhile, will be aiming to get their early record back on the plus side at 7 p.m. Thursday against Kirtland Central (1-6).

“Kirtland is a really good team we played in the playoffs last year,” said Ortiz.

The Broncos have gotten off to a slow start thus far, opening the year with losses to West Las Vegas (twice), Bernalillo and Grants, defeating Espanola Valley 15-0 March 10, and dropping a double header to Grants Tuesday, 10-2 and 8-1.

The ‘Dogs will be coming off of a 1-2 outing at the Caveman Classic, where they dropped their opener to Midland Lee but earned their way into the fifth-place game with a win over El
Paso Burges before being edged by Miyamura.

“We just want to play our game,” Ortiz said. “I want to see us do the things we need to do and not hurt ourselves – just make all the routine plays.

“We’re also going to be moving the lineup around, just to see how guys fit together with getting our basketball guys out. We’re excited about being able to see what we can do with the full team now.”

Bulldog fans are encouraged to turn out this weekend and support the baseball team in its first home games. The ‘Dogs have also chosen to honor the Orona and Palmer families prior to their first game Thursday, with London Orona throwing out the first pitch.

“It’s always exciting to be in front of our fans and to get a chance for people to see us live, so we hope to have some big crowds,” Ortiz said.