Moriarty High School’s successful softball season unraveled in one costly inning last Friday as the visiting Artesia Lady Bulldogs upended the Lady Pintos 8-2 in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
Before the game even started, snakes had to be chased away from the field. Throughout the contest, strong wind gusts pushed clouds of dust across the diamond. But the snakes and the wind were just incidental sidebars of the game.
The big blow came in the top of the second inning off the bats of the No. 9 Lady Bulldogs.
“They’re a good team,” Moriarty’s head coach Tonya Walden said about Artesia. “But honestly, we would’ve done better if Kodie hadn’t got hit.”
Walden was referring to Moriarty’s starting pitcher, Kodie Aceves, who took a scorching line drive to her leg off the bat of Artesia’s Ale Flores. “It was a pretty bad hit,” Walden said.
Things went south from there for the eighth-seeded Lady Pintos.
Aceves issued a pair of walks, followed by a deep fly ball that just got past centerfielder Erin Spalding’s outstretched glove to put Artesia up 2-0.
The Bulldogs had bases loaded when the Lady Pintos attempted to get a force out on Artesia’s lead runner at home plate. The plate umpire initially signaled that the runner was out.
But Artesia appealed the umpire’s call, so all three umpires got together to confer. They eventually overturned the call, concluding that Moriarty’s catcher didn’t have secure possession of the ball when making the tag, and another Artesia run was in.
The Bulldogs pushed a couple more runs across the plate, and when the inning was finally over, Moriarty was looking up at a 6-0 deficit.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Walden said of the fateful second inning. “It was just a struggle.”
Moriarty got on the board in the fourth inning when Gabby Aceves’ two-out, RBI base hit down the left field line brought in Mica Hendren. The Lady Pintos had an opportunity to score more runs in the inning but left the bases loaded.
Moriarty stranded eight runners on base during the game.
Kodie Aceves’ RBI brought in Mariah Peterson in the bottom of the seventh for Moriarty’s other run.
“They played hard, I’m real proud of them,” Walden said, adding, “They’re a great group of girls.”
Moriarty finished with a 21-6 overall record, 9-0 in district, and reached the state tournament for the third consecutive season under Walden.
The Lady Pintos will lose four seniors but Walden said she has complete confidence in the players who’ll be returning. “All in all, I think we’ll do really good next year, we’re going to be all right,” she said.