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In the past, if was the latter part of July, Bob Medina and his Artesia Punishers 18-Under or 18-Gold travel ball teams would be going through their final checklists, packing their suitcases and getting ready to go to the Midwest, South or Southeast to compete for an Amateur Softball Association ‘A’ Girls Fastpitch National Championship. But recently, he has opted for more cost effective ways to stay closer to home while at the same time, get his players noticed by college coaches.
In fact, his Gold team has ventured out of California twice this summer and will be participating in the Southern California ASA Women’s Fastpitch State Tournament on Saturday and Sunday in Corona. After that, its season will come to an end. But it’s been a season of accomplishments as players have already signed to various colleges and the team recently captured the championship of the Pikes Peak Bracket of the Triple Crown Sports Colorado Sparkler Tournament earlier this month.
“We’ve accomplished all of our goals and going out there and playing hard,” Medina said. “We have some really nice scholarships for some of the girls. Our whole focus for this whole year was scholarships, scholarships, scholarships. We only have three kids left [to be signed] and one joined our team a month ago. Everything is really working as best as they can be. I think we’re really happy with it.”
The championship was the first since 2007 when Medina fielded an all-star caliber team which won the ASA ‘A’ National Championship in College Station, TX. Before that, Medina had won a pair of state championships. Since then, Medina has taken his teams to Moline, IL and Hemet for the ASA Nationals. Last summer, his team participated in the Southern California Women’s Fastpitch State Tournament for the first time.
“The championship was nice,” Medina said of winning in Colorado. “Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but the kids were in good spirits and the coaches were in good spirits. With the talented players that we have, and we have a lot of talent, you can go out there and coach that team.
“It was the first time we were on the road,” he added. “We try to keep all of the funds down, so we don’t go on the road much and we’re not going to chase an ASA berth because you’re going to be in Tennessee or Illinois. We focus on the showcases.”
In the past, the majority of the focus would be on winning the necessary tournaments to earn a berth in the National Championships and then winning that final summer tournament. While that goal will always remain, Medina feels it’s just as important, if not more important, for girls to get noticed and signed to colleges. Early in June, a pair of Cerritos High teammates-Heather Cameron and Jennifer Iseri-verbally signed to play at the University of Hawai’i while the team was participating in the Junior Olympic Showcase in Las Vegas. Other than the trips to Colorado and Las Vegas, the Punishers have stayed in Southern California and have been a part of the Premier Girls Fastpitch showcases.
But his team isn’t the only one enjoying success. The Punishers have a 16-Under team coached by Higinio Valdez that will be playing in the ASA ‘A’ Western National Championships in Kaysville, UT from July 30-Aug. 4. Two 14-Under teams, coached by Tommy Parten and Dan Weeks, are currently in San Diego for the Triple Crown Sports 14-U Fastpitch Open World Series. That tournament concludes on Saturday. Weekes’ team, known as the Artesia Punishers 98, went 3-1 in its pool play games this past Tuesday and Wednesday while Parten’s team, the Artesia Punishers 97, split its four pool play games. Both teams began the double elimination playoffs on July 19.
And, Mike Freeman’s 12-Under team will be one of 40 teams in the PGF National Championships to be played in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach next week. In just the third year of existence of the PGF, this is the first time that the 12-U age group will be playing for a championship. Of the 40 teams, all but five are from California.
“It’s exciting for that team,” Medina said. “They put together a lot of kids who were sitting on the benches and the training was just phenomenal. I think they’re a contender and they’re going to open a lot of eyes. They’ve been beating a lot of older teams. It’s an honor to have them in there.”
“The younger teams in our organization…we’re trying to have them focus and compete with the good competition,” Medina added. “Competing constantly at a younger age is going get them prepared for what they want to do and most of the colleges are looking for that. We require everybody to join those Nationals. That’s their goal, just like ours was when we first came out. When we first came out, there were just two teams, and one was mine.”
While the PGF has been a Southland staple in its brief existence, the ASA ‘A’ will have National Championship tournaments in Moline, IL, Sioux Falls, SD, Montgomery, AL, Johnson City, TN and Oklahoma City later this month. Next year, the 12-U Nationals will be in Bowling Green, KY, the 14s in Chattanooga, TN, the 16s in Sunnyvale, CA, the 18s in Sterling, VA and the Gold teams will play in Clearwater, FL. The ASA Western Nationals will take place anywhere from San Diego to Medford, OR.
“I think more of my time is spent on guiding the other teams in the right direction,” Medina said. “If you make [my] team, I believe it’s an honor because 99 percent, you’re going to get a scholarship or you’re going to get some good looks. The rest is up to you. By them competing at the younger age, those are the kids who are going to achieve that goal no matter what.
“Our younger groups are getting very, very strong right now,” he continued. “They’re beating a lot of really good teams now. Before, the reputation was there with winning Nationals, Western Nationals and state a couple of times. But the younger ones are holding their own now and they’re really winning some tournaments.
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