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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
After disappointing performances in a couple of Premier Girls Fastpitch qualifiers, the Artesia Punishers capped off the summer with a very solid performance in the Triple Crown Sports 16U/18U World Series in Park City Utah, July 11-16. The Punishers, managed by Armando Canizales and assisted by Steve Gray and Hil Hernandez, won all four of their pool play games and finished in fifth place out of 55 teams.
“It was a good experience for the girls,” Canizales said. “We had an up and down year and struggled at PGF. We talked about being top notch at PGF and the couple of weeks off after that we got it all together. We had a couple of good practices and we were able to be top notch at Park City Triple Crown World Series. The girls did phenomenal out there.”
The Punishers began pool play action on July 12 against the (Salem) Oregon Titans and came away 8-7 winners. The Punishers built an 8-0 lead after three innings thanks to a two-run home run from Kylee Perryman (Millikan High) in the bottom of the first inning and a two-run double from Amanda Canizales (Whittier High) in the second.
Later in the morning, the Punishers blanked the (Rocklin) West Coast Premier 13-0 as Amanda Canizales had a solo home run and Savannah Flinn (Beaumont High) belted a two-run home run and added a two-run single as part of a nine-run bottom of the third inning. Nicoal Magdaleno (La Habra High) also had a two-run single in the onslaught.
The next day, the Punishers doubled up the (Lakewood) Colorado Psyclones 8-4 and the (Kaysville) Utah Epic 12-6 to wrap up pool play action. Against the Psyclones, Amanda Canizales went four for four, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs while Perryman went two for three and had a two-run triple in the top of the fourth inning as the Punishers built a 6-1 lead. Against the Epic, Kirsten Hernandez (Lakewood High) led off the game with a home run while Jocelyn Rodriguez (Paramount High) went four for four.
“I believe it has a lot to do with the 90 days of high school they do,” Armando Canizales said of the difference between the first part of the summer and the World Series. “They all get steered in a different direction by every coach. You have an idea of what you want and what you expect and some players meet that expectation and other players think it’s okay to just play at a lower level, which is the high school level.”
The first playoff game, which was part of two gold brackets, was late in the morning of July 14 and the Punishers got past the (Fort Collins, CO) Buckaroos Blue 4-1. Perryman had a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first and Hernandez added a two-out, two-run double in the third. Right after that game, the Punishers whitewashed the (Pittsburg) Lady Magic 7-0 with all of the runs coming in the bottom of the second. Amanda Canizales had a two-run double and Flinn blasted a two-run home run.
But in the afternoon of July 15, the bats were silenced by the (Oregon City, OR) NW Nightmare in a 9-1 loss. The Punishers were limited to a pair of hits-Rodriguez in the first which scored Amanda Canizales with two outs, and Flinn right after that. The Punishers would bounce back and edge the (Buena Park) OC Strikeforce 7-5 as Perryman continued to stay hot, hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the first.
“K.P. was phenomenal with the bat,” Canizales said. “Up and down the lineup, for K.P. to be successful, the other girls had to be successful so that they could get to her. And I think that was a big key, when the girls above her were successful, [the opposing pitchers] had no choice but to pitch to her and I think that’s what made the game even better.”
Hernandez also had a run-scoring double in the first and Sierra Gerdts (Montebello High) had a two-run single in the third. But on the last day of the tournament, the Punishers fell to the (Salt Lake City) Firecracker UT 8-0 as Nikki Aldecoa (Bishop Amat High) had a third inning single and Perryman had a fourth inning base hit. Still, it was a better way to end the summer than the way it began, according to Armando Canizales.
“The girls, I think, felt really comfortable,” he said. “They had fun up there. They had good communication and they felt really relaxed. We didn’t put pressure on ourselves that we had to win [or] we had to qualify. But the coaching staff and I really put on them that we have to swing the bat. I think they relaxed and had fun. It was a long seven days out there and they just attacked the ball really well.”
With four players having been moved up to the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team, managed by Bob Medina, which will be losing the majority of its team to graduation, Armando Canizales says he is moving his team up one age level for next season.
“We have a great challenge moving to 18s as 16-year olds,” he said. “It’s starting all over again, just getting it together. We’re going to buckle it up; we’re not going to take any weeks off. We’re going to go straight into practicing. It will be a young team and we’ll see how we do. I think we’ll be great. We finished off great and I think their confidence is riding high.”
The rest of the Artesia Punishers 16-Under team are: Aliana Carrazco (Paramount High), Melissa Corona (Gahr High), Julissa Gonzalez (Millikan High), DeAndria Lockett (Hawthorne Math and Science Academy), Samantha Noriega (Carson High), Rachel Rubio (Millikan High) and Cassandra Torres (Santa Fe High).
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