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Even a washed-away 2020 season could not stop the momentum of Artesia’s softball program.
The Bulldogs captured their third straight 4A softball state title blanking Gallup 4-0 at the University of New Mexico Softball Field on Saturday afternoon.
Junior pitcher RyLee Crandall had a dominant one-hit shutout victory, striking out 15 and walking just one.
Crandall came one out from pitching a no-hitter, but Gallup’s Taylor Morgan broke it up with an infield single.
“Our team just wanted to do as much as we could do to get back here again,” Crandall said of the state finals win. “It would’ve been nice (to have the no-hitter), but my team had my back, and I’m super-proud of them.”
Crandall was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ fifth inning that broke up a scoreless tie. But it was an unlikely bunt single that kick-started a four-run uprising.
Kenzi Carlo reached base for Artesia (21-2) with a leadoff walk, and Vianka Baeza set up for a sacrifice bunt.
Baeza missed on her first bunt attempt, but pushed a floating bunt over the charging Gallup defense on the next pitch from pitcher S.J. Haines.
The ball landed safely in the space previously occupied by the Gallup second baseman. Carlo, meanwhile, moved to third base on the play.
Crandall followed with a line-drive single up the middle, driving in the first run of the game and taking second base when the throw went to third base, thus putting two runners in scoring position.
Presley Skinner delivered the big blow of the game, stroking a two-run RBI double into the left-center field gap raising the lead to 3-0.
Gallup coach Rayfert Spencer pointed to that execution of the Artesia bunt as the pivotal moment of the game.
“We knew they were going to bunt,” Spencer said. “She pushed the ball, and everyone was in their movement (forward). Our second baseman moved too early … but they just did a great job with that situation play.”
Perseis Aguilar added an RBI double to left field that completed the Artesia scoring. That 4-0 deficit proved insurmountable for Gallup (20-3), which had few well-struck balls the entire game.
“We tried to adjust (to Crandall),” Spencer said. “She just kept us off-balance. She threw that changeup, and we were just fishing for it and couldn’t get it. She just did a great job of pitching.”
Artesia coach Sandra Pulido said it was easy to keep the team motivated and active, despite the unusual spring schedule that had high school teams playing well into the normal summer months.
She also said that it was a little bit of early nerves that factored in the early-inning offensive struggles.
“We have nine freshmen and an eighth-grader on this stage for the first time,” Pulido said. “We talked to them that it’s (the) same game, just a different location. Once the fifth inning came, we were in the second and third time through the lineup. They made adjustments at the plate, put the ball in play, and made things happen.”
No. 1 ARTESIA 4, No. 2 GALLUP 0
Gallup 000 000 0 0 1 0
Artesia 000 040 x 4 6 0
Pitching Batteries: RyLee Crandall and Perseis Aguilar. S.J. Haines and Steph Charlie. WP, Crandall, LP, Haines. Leading hitters: G, Taylor Morgan 1-3. A, Crandall 2-3, RBI, R; Presley Skinner 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Perscis Aguilar, 1-3, 2B, RBI.