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By Loren Kopff
RIVERSIDE-The Artesia Punishers travel softball program keeps expanding into the Inland Empire and one of those teams just wrapped up the Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament winning three of five games. Manager Mike Leyvas, who formally was with Team Easton the previous four years, now brings his Highland-based team over to the Punishers family in search of bringing home a championship.
The team of 14 current players, one still in middle school, one already in high school and the other 12 about to enter one of nine different high schools throughout the I.E., has participated in three tournaments since February and will be playing in the Triple Crown World Series in Reno next month. Leyvas credits Dave Lindsay, the manager of the Punishers 18-Under team, for getting him in touch with Bob Medina, the manager of the 18 Gold team and seeing if he could move his team to the Punishers organization.
“Once we knew we were making the jump to 14’s, it gets a little more serious as far as the recruiting part of it,” Leyvas said. “So we wanted to get into an organization that had a bigger umbrella of what to do.
“I’ve always known what the Artesia Punishers do,” he added. “It’s a really good name and a really good organization. Once we got there, it’s been great. Now that we’re finishing our first year as 14’s and getting into the first showcases and stuff…that’s going to be a big thing with the connections that Bob will have and Dave will have.”
The Punishers, who won three of five games last weekend at Orange Terrace Community Park, began with a come from behind 5-4 victory over the (Rancho Cucamonga) Orange County Batbusters last Saturday afternoon. Already down 2-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning, the Punishers got on the board by loading the bases with none out on singles from Marlisa Lee (Arrowhead Christian Academy), Sarah Mosqueda (Redlands High) and Isabella Ramirez (Yucaipa High). After a fielder’s choice from Aniyah Easley (Silverado High) resulted in the first out, Celene Alvarez (Ramona High) singled to center to plate Mosqueda.
The Batbusters would add to their lead in the fourth before a four-run fourth inning propelled the Punishers to the win. A single from Alexi Torres (Redlands High) brought in Analisa Sanchez (Colton High), who had led off the frame by reaching on an error. On the next pitch, Devyn Escobar’s (Grand Terrace High) base hit drove home Torres and Kailie McKee (Redlands East Valley High). Two pitches after that, a double from Kayla Miller (Redlands High) put the Punishers up 5-3. Lee and Torres each had a pair of hits as the Punishers pounded out 10 hits.
Right after that game, Mosqueda and Ramirez combined to shutout the (San Diego) Southern California Athletics 3-0. Although the two allowed nine hits, three runners were stranded at third base, three were caught stealing and one was thrown out at home.
“The pitching did well,” Leyvas said. “We moved some things around defensive-wise and we’re still trying to find that really good cohesive unit. We’re still missing a few little pieces on that. But if we can get good defense and the pitching throwing the outs, then we should be well.”
The Punishers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Jacey Leyvas (Bettie Middle School) was walked, moved to third on an error and came home on a Ramirez single. The team would add two more runs in the sixth when Courtney Smioth (Aquinas High) singled, Sanchez reached on a walk and Aaliyah Rebolledo (Ramona High) singled to load the bases with one out. Torres and Escobar would follow with run-scoring singles.
Again, the Punishers had 10 hits with Torres going three for three. But in the final game of the night, the bats went cold and it showed as the Punishers fell to the Lakewood Hustlers 7-1. The Punishers were held without a hit but had 11 runners reach on an error, a walk or a hit by pitch.
“I think we kind of ran out of gas and we kind of hit a wall,” Mike Leyvas said. “That’s one of the things that we were just mentioning at our team meeting; that we left too many runners on base. I think we had six batters with the bases loaded between the three games that we didn’t cash in those runs, or runners in scoring position that we didn’t get to.”
The Hustlers, who touched up Mosqueda and Ramirez for 12 hits, scored twice in the top of the first and three more in the third. Five of those hits came in the third when the Hustlers sent nine batters to the plate. Cassie Perryman, a former Cerritos Girls Softball Association all-star who will be attending Artesia High in the fall, had one of those hits. Elise Gibbs, who just finished her freshman season at Cerritos High, went three for three and scored once.
As for the Punishers, they loaded the bases in the second and fourth innings and came away empty. They avoided the shutout in the fifth when Miller reached on an error and scored when Lee was safe on the fourth of five errors by the Hustlers.
This past Sunday, the Punishers took care of (North Tustin) Team Easton 7-2 before falling to the (Manteca) Anarchy Fastpitch 8-1.
The Punishers, who also have Makyla Leyvas (Redlands High) on the squad, began 2016 with participation in the Triple Crown Sports Presidents’ Day Showdown in Temecula where they won both of their pool play games but lost their only two playoff games. The next month, they were in the St. Paddy’s Day Blast in Las Vegas where they lost all five games played and last month, the Punishers were in the Triple Crown Sports Faith Strong Charity Event in Perris where they went 2-2-1. Next up will be the World Series in Reno from July 18-23.
“The exciting thing about going to Reno is that as we progress going into that and have a good showing [there], it will catapault us going into next year as far as other players,” Mike Leyvas said.
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