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CHAMPIONS CUP: Artesia Punishers 14-U and 16-U Teams Struggle at Champions Cup

ARTESIA PUNISHERS 16-Under pitcher Sara Pinedo (El Modena High) was a workhorse during last weekend’s Champions Cup showcase tournament in Irvine. In the final four of six games the Punishers would play, Pinedo pitched 14.2 innings of the 20 the Punishers played during that time, gave up 15 hits, eight earned runs and struck out eight batters. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.

 

 

July 17, 2021

BY LOREN KOPFF

@LORENKOPFF ON TWITTER

IRVINE-The Artesia Punishers 14-Under travel softball team, coached by Andy Macias, and the 16-Under squad, coached by Leo Amaya, participated in the prestigious Champions Cup showcase tournament last weekend with both teams not faring too well. The 16’s, with all games played at Harvard Park, went 0-4-1 in pool play action before falling to the [Encino] Victory USA 9-0 this past Sunday morning in the first game of the single elimination playoffs.

The scores of most of the six games may not reflect it, but the Punishers had some flashes of good play and in some situations, were on the verge of putting together some rallies and potentially coming away with a victory. Against the Victory USA, the Punishers loaded the bases in the bottom of the first and third innings by nearly identical situations before a strikeout and a pop-up respectively ended any scoring chances. Then there was the first game last Saturday against the [Hollister] Cal A’s-Heen in which the Punishers had a 2-0 lead after the second inning, surrendered two runs in the top of the sixth inning to fall behind, then tied the game in the next inning. However, right fielder Madison Morgan (Valley Christian High) singled with two outs and on the next pitch, was thrown out at second on a controversial call.

“There were some good moments for sure,” Amaya said. “I had Madison steal and the blue called her out. It was a judgement call; I understand that. Who knows? If she’s safe and we get a base hit, she scores and we win. Today, we had the bases loaded twice and we couldn’t pull through.”

The 16-Under Punishers began the Champions Cup with an 8-2 loss to the [Rancho Penasquitos] So Cal Mavericks last Thursday, immediately followed by a 5-0 setback to the Corona Angels. In the first game, the Punishers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, only to see the Mavericks tack on five runs in their half of the inning. The Punishers had just three hits, coming from Alicia Amaya (Bellflower High), Mikala Jacobsen (Cypress High) and right fielder Jessica Lopez (Los Osos High).

Against the Corona Angels, left fielder Jazmine Macias (La Mirada High) went two for three with a double and Amaya went one for three for the only hits the team would get. The Angels scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning, all with two outs.

The lone game played last Friday night was against the [Nampa] Team Idaho Dirtdogs and the game was put away in the first few innings. Team Idaho scored three times in each of the first two innings and added one more in the third for a 7-4 victory.

The Punishers would collect four hits through the first three innings and strand four runners, none getting to third base. But in the fourth inning alone, they would get four hits and score all their runs. Macias singled to left on an 0-2 count, stole second and scored when Lopez reached on an error, who would move to second on another error. On the next pitch, pitcher Sara Pinedo {El Modena High) singled to right and one pitch later, catcher Autumn Herbig (Kennedy High) doubled to the right field gap. The final run came when Morgan grounded out to bring in courtesy runner Kayden Lopez (Garces High).

“Our girls don’t give up and I just told them we have to get in [the game] and get base hits,” Leo Amaya said. “I’m not looking for home runs; I’m just looking for base hits. We talk about it all the time and that’s what happened.”

The best chance for a win in the tournament was against the Cal A’s as both pitchers were embattled in a seven-inning duel that saw both Pinedo and Mariah Sequra combine for 12 strikeouts, allow 13 hits and walk one. But it was how the game ended that had many associated with the Punishers wondering if they were robbed. With the Cal A’s up 3-2 Kayden Lopez saw six pitches before doubling to the right field gap to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Left fielder Nathaly Ochoa (Bellflower High) then sacrificed her over before a double from Jacobsen on the next pitch tied the contest. Morgan would follow that with a first-pitch base infield single. But on the next pitch thrown to Pinedo, Morgan took off for second and appeared to have beat the throw from Cal A’s catcher Jessalyn Casillas. But five seconds after Morgan reached second, the field umpire called her out to end the game.

 

Morgan took off for second and appeared to have beat the throw from Cal A’s catcher Jessalyn Casillas. But five seconds after Morgan reached second, the field umpire called her out to end the game. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.

 

 

“That was a pitcher’s battle for both [teams],” Leo Amaya said. “Both pitchers were really good. Strikeouts on both teams, pop-outs for both sides. It was just our girls couldn’t hit.”

“Her performance was really good,” he later said of Amaya. “Every time I threw her in there, she pitched really good.”

Following the game, the Punishers jumped out to a 3-0 lead before falling to the [Camas, WA] NW Rampage Silver 7-3. In the top of the second inning, Alicia Amaya singled to right and third baseman Anaiyah Yniguez (Bellflower High) was hit by a Katy Kutch pitch. After a pop-up for the first out, Kayden Lopez singled to right to plate Amaya before stealing second. Following a strikeout, Jacobsen reached on an infield single while bringing in a pair of runs.

The Punishers would get three more hits the remainder of the game and had the leadoff batter reach in the fourth and sixth innings, but to no avail. The Punishers stranded four runners in the game and had eight flyouts.

“They have to hit to win games,” Leo Amaya said. “I know I keep on repeating myself every single time. But if you don’t hit, you can’t win. If you don’t score, you can’t win. They know they have to start practicing more on hitting instead of fielding as much.”

This past Sunday, the Punishers were never in the game against the Victory USA in a 9-0 game. Down 1-0 after half an inning and with two outs, Herbig and Jessica Lopez both singled to the right field gap and Isabella Serrato walked Alicia Amaya to load the bases. However, a strikeout would end further damage. In the third inning, Jacobsen was robbed of a base hit when left fielder Kira Palmer made a remarkable diving catch. One out later, Herbig and Jessica Lopez each singled again and Amaya was walked to load the bases. It marked the third time in the tournament the Punishers loaded the bases. But a pop-up ended that chance.

In the final three games of the Champions Cup, the Punishers were shorthanded as half the team was competing in the Surf City Tourney’s Summer Showcase in Fountain Valley 13 miles away. There, the Punishers would fall to the [Sacramento] Firecrackers-Leles/Neal 14-0, knock off the [Fresno] Central California Fury 13-5 and edge the [Salinas] MB Athletics-Abraham 7-5 in succession last Saturday. The next day, the Punishers fell to the [Chino] Southern California Athletics-Briggs 1-0 before knocking off the [San Diego] Power Surge-Strandeberg 4-3.

“That was one of my mistakes as well, trying to get just the nine girls here and give [the other team] 12, which I should have kept 12 here and give nine over there,” Leo Amaya said. “That is pretty difficult, but we tried our best to do it.”

This was the 13th year that the 16-Under age group, which had 42 teams, has participated in the Champions Cup. The only other season that an Artesia Punishers 16-Under team played in the Champions Cup came in 2014 and lost its lone playoff game.

There wasn’t as much game drama with the Artesia Punishers 14-Under team as they lost all four games played by a combined score of 33-9. This was the first time any Artesia Punishers 14-Under team had played in the Champions Cup and the ninth year the tournament had had this age group.

“The results weren’t what I wanted,” Andy Macias said. “Most of the players, they normally make the plays when we play in friendlies and stuff. When it came down to the Champions Cup, nobody performed. There were a lot of errors and my key players were not hitting.”

Last Friday, the Punishers, one of 24 teams from this age group, dropped a 9-4 decision to the [Los Alamitos] Team Freeman despite getting 10 hits and that was followed by a 5-2 setback to the [Fremont] Lady Wolf Pack. The Punishers would rally from a 2-0 deficit to score all their runs in the top of the fourth inning against Team Freeman. Lilly Gonzalez (San Pedro High) would go three for three and score a run while Alexis Phipps (Kennedy High) would go two for three and scored once.

Against the Wolf Pack, Gonzalez and Kaitlyn Macias (La Mirada High) had the lone hits as the Punishers fell behind 3-0 before scoring twice in the top of the fourth. Phipps also was walked three times and scored once while Gonzalez had the other run.

“That one, the girls were excited to be there and not only were my players hitting, most of them were hitting and running the bases properly,” Andy Macias said of the first game. “To me, I think our best game was the second game against the Lady Wolfpack because we were competing with them for a while. We were doing pretty well, then they caught up.”

The final game of pool play action was last Saturday afternoon against the [Whittier] Explosion Berouty/Roman and this one was a runaway early in a 9-0 decision. The Explosion scored twice in the bottom of the second, four more the next inning, once in the third and twice in the fourth in their 10-hit attack. Carissa Galvan was throwing a no-hitter until pitcher Elisabeth Truchin (Torrance High) led off the top of the fifth with a single to left, stole second and moved to third on another base hit. The Punishers had four base runners in the game but was hampered in the beginning with their starting second baseman, starting shortstop and starting pitcher beginning on the bench due to a violation of team rules.

“That brings the team down because the players I had staying on the field were a little disappointed because those key players put a lot of pressure on the other players,” Andy Macias said. “I know it brought the coaches down as well when we were getting ready for the game because we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do when were [putting the lineup together] and we don’t have our key players there.”

In the single elimination playoffs later in the day, the Punishers lost to the [Yorba Linda] Monarchs 07 10-3.