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Bulldogs offer tough test for LAHS in playoffs

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By Phil Scherer

 Following a successful regular season, the Los Alamos baseball team begins the 2018 State Baseball Championships today against an Artesia High School team that will provide a great challenge to the Hilltoppers. 

Artesia, the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, went 16-10 this season overall and 9-3 in District 4-5A. After a tight district race against Goddard, Artesia finished as the runners-up, as Goddard went 10-2 in district play to claim the title and earn the No. 1 seed in the State Baseball Championships. 

In head-to-head match-ups, Artesia went 2-3 against Goddard. 

The teams split the four games in district play, with Goddard also winning 3-2 in the Rio Rancho Tournament in late March. 

Like most good teams, Artesia is full of good players, and does not rely on a particular player to win. As a team, the Bulldogs bat .329, and have pitched to a 3.78 ERA. 

Throughout the season, the team’s best batter has been Taylor Null, who batted .560 this season, with 42 hits and 24 RBI’s. 

He hit nine doubles, two triples and two home runs this season, scoring 26 runs. 

Aaron Natera led the team with five home runs this season, and drove in 27 runs, which also led the team. 

The Bulldogs had seven players with 10 or more RBI’s and the threats exist up-and-down the lineup. 

Where the team becomes even more dangerous is its pitching staff. 

As opposed to most teams, which balance innings between about four players, the Bulldogs have six players that have pitched at least 14 innings this year, and have proven to be reliable in various roles.

Natera leads the team with 30.2 innings pitched this year, starting five games and compiling a 2.51 ERA. 

Also starting five games was JR Bustamante, who pitched 27.2 innings and earned a 3.54 ERA while striking out 34 batters, the most on the team. 

Artesia is great at preventing runners from scoring, and has allowed only eight home runs as a pitching staff this year. 

The best-of-three first round series between LAHS and Artesia begins today at 6 p.m. at Artesia, and continues Saturday at 10 a.m. 

If the teams split the first two games, a third game will be played following Saturday morning’s first game. 

The winner of this series will advance to the quarterfinal round against the winner of the series between No. 4 seed Belen and No. 13 seed Aztec. 

The quarterfinals will be played Thursday at 3 p.m. at St. Pius X High School.