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CHAMPIONS CUP Inexperience overcomes Artesia Punishers 16-Under squad in Champions Cup

By Loren Kopff

IRVINE-When the travel ball season began last September, the Artesia Punishers team coached by Armando Canizales was a 14-Under squad. But over the past few months, the team was playing in a couple of 16-Under tournaments.

One of those tournaments was the Amateur Softball Association’s Champions Cup and while the Punishers won two games in pool play action, they were no match for the (Fullerton) Cal A’s, coached by Crystal Aguirre, this past Sunday in a 4-1 defeat at Harvard Park. It marked the end of a frustrating four-day tournament that saw the Punishers commit 19 errors in seven games, including five against the Cal A’s.

“On the defensive side, we struggled,” Canizales said. “The girls are actually a second-year 14 team coming up to play 16’s, which is very critical. At the 16-year-old division you can’t make the mental mistakes our young team made. It was tough to see them break down that way. But it’s something I hope to work on and grow out of it in the near future.”

The Cal A’s scored in the top of the second inning as Hailee Desmond doubled and scored on a single from Amanda Melodia. It was 2-0 in the next inning after Alexis Honeycutt scored on an error and the Cal A’s increased its lead to 3-0 in the fifth on a triple from Warren High School’s Megan Narvaez, plating Eryka Springer of Mayfair High School.

The Punishers avoided being shutout when first baseman Attie Landrum (Sunny Hills High School) doubled to the center field wall and came home on a double from centerfielder Amanda Canizales (Whittier High School). Ashley Armas (John Glenn High School) went the distance, scattering seven hits and yielding two earned runs. Four of those seven hits came in the final three innings.

“Ashley’s performance this weekend was wonderful,” Armando Canizales said. “She’s come a long way in the last three months. Her speed, her velocity, her control…I’m speechless on her pitching coming along the way it has.”

The Punishers were limited to six hits with right fielder Elisa Peralta (Santa Fe High School) going two for three. Three hits came from batters from the top four in the batting order. Peralta was in the sixth spot while the other hit came from pinch hitter Sierra Eddy (Wilson High School), who batted eighth.

“The top of the order is a little healthier than the bottom of the order,” Armando Canizales said. “We couldn’t make a small adjustment on the drop ball from the other pitcher. We couldn’t put hits together. That was the thing. The bottom of the order needs to come up.”

The Punishers began pool play action last Thursday with a 9-1 loss to the Orange County Batbusters as Ashley Machado (Warren High School) drove in Alexxis Ponce (Santa Fe High School) in the bottom of the fifth. Later in the day, the team bounced back for a 9-3 win over the (San Marcos) Southern California Breakers as Armas went three for three, scored twice and hit a home run while Allison Castro (Yorba Linda High School) hit a three-run home run

Last Friday, the Punishers blasted the (Oakdale) OBS Monarch 6-1 behind a second straight 11-hit attack. Amanda Canizales went three for four with a triple, a run scored and two RBI. Armas and Ponce each had a pair of hits. But the (Bellevue, WA) Blast did exactly that later in the day in an 11-5 conquest. The Blast scored six runs in the top of the first but the Punishers answered back with all of their runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Last Saturday morning, the Punishers tied the (Las Vegas) Rage 3-3 with all three of their runs coming in the bottom of the first inning. Armas and Amanda Canizales each picked up two hits and scored once. Then in the afternoon, the Punishers were pummeled by the (Central California) Dirt Dogs 16-3 with all three runs once again coming in the bottom of the first. Devany Esparza (Bellflower High School) had a solo home run while Amanda Canizales went two for three and scored once.

The Champions Cup marked the final major tournament of the summer for the Punishers, which had already qualified for the ASA Western Nationals in Clovis but will not attend due to the fact that it will be missing several players. The team recently came off a third place performance in the Triple Crown Sports Red, White and Blue Tournament where it allowed nine runs in three pool play games and scored 19 runs in three playoff games.

“I see the maturity level from the 16’s to my team, and there’s a difference,” Armando Canizales said. “Their emotions get more in the way than being a little bit more mature and going though that error or that bad at-bat, where my girls kind of hang onto it mentally and don’t let it go away.”