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PREVIEW OF 2021 PREMIER GIRLS FASTPITCH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP : Artesia Punishers 18-Gold team ready to be tested at summer’s biggest tournament

July 22, 2021

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

After a one-year absence because of the pandemic, the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship travel softball tournament has made its way back to Orange County. And the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team has once again found themselves as one of the 75 teams nationwide situated in the Platinum Division, while another 68 teams are in the Premier Division.

Because the pandemic created havoc with the recent high school softball season in which travel teams in California were allowed to play during their high school season, the PGF did not have any of the usual qualifiers for the 18-Under age group. So, just like in 2019, the Punishers went through the summer playing in nothing but showcase tournaments and friendlies. In fact, the only two major showcases the team competed in were the Zoom into June, where the Punishers went 1-4 and scored 11 runs in the four losses, and the Surf City Tourney’s Summer Showcase, held July 10 and 11. There, the Punishers went 3-0-2, scored 13 runs and allowed four.

“The team is playing a lot better; we seem to be gelling,” said Artesia Punishers head coach Joe Fletcher. “We’re kind of peaking at the right time. We’re still kind of mixing and matching the roster a little bit. But I think we have a pretty good mix now. So, we’ll try to get prepared for that and go in and try to play our best softball and see how far we can go.”

The Punishers, who haven’t had a history of success at the PGF National Championship, went 1-2 in bracket play in 2019, a year after finishing in third place in the Platinum Division. It was their third place finish that gave the team a free pass from attending any qualifiers in 2019, and because of the pandemic last season, most of the teams were invited to the 2021 PGF National Championship.

Fletcher says the team’s pitching and defense are the strengths and those two components have picked up since the beginning of the summer. At the same time, he feels the team still needs to work on the execution from the offense.

“We’re a very dangerous team when the bats are on fire, just like most teams,” he said. “The offense has improved, so we feel we’re in every game and making the plays, offensively, will give you a better chance to win. Sometimes in showcases, they have a tendency not to necessarily use all of our offensive strategy. We want the girls to hit and have the [college] coaches see them hit. But obviously now in PGF, we’ll have more hit and runs, bunts and steals to be more offensive-minded.”

“I think, number one, the girls being together a little bit more,” Fletcher later said. “We had a couple of newer players, but there’s a lot more hunger and intensity. I think they understand we’re trying to get to Nationals and trying to make a deep run. So, the sense of how we’re playing and what we’re playing for is starting to get more in focus. Now, the prize is right there, so we’re ready to go after it.”

First baseman and outfielder Bailey Jacobsen (Cypress High/Chaminade University) was on the Punishers Gold team in 2019 but was injured in the Summer Showcase a few weeks ago. Fletcher said her status for the PGF National Championship is unknown as of one week out. Catcher Mya Diaz (Anaheim High/Hope University) is the only other current player that was on the roster from 2019 team. For the Punishers to go deeper than they did in 2019, Fletcher says it’s going to be the typical adage of playing to their capability.

“We can go and make a deep run,” Fletcher said. “The attributes of a being strong, quality team are there. We just have to put it together at the right time. Like any championships, we have to get some fortunate breaks that help you out. A play here and a play there can make a difference between winning 5-4 or losing 6-5. So, we feel we have a squad that can definitely go and represent strongly and make a run and see what happens.

“We’re looking forward to going and playing our best softball,” he later added. “It feels like it’s been five years since we’ve been able to play. But the girls are excited; the opportunity is here. We’ve been talking about it for eight or nine months and getting prepared for this. So, hopefully that excitement and the work we’ve put in will display itself and we can make a deep run.”

 

2021 Artesia Punishers 18 Gold

President and manager: Bobby Medina

Head coach: Joe Fletcher; Assistants: Leo Amaya, Michael Jacobsen, John Medina

2021 graduates in italics

 

            Player                                     Positions       High School/College

#00      Mikala Jacobsen                   Utility              Cypress High

#6        Alicia Amaya                         Utility/1B        Bellflower High

#7        Carla Hollins                         1B/3B              Santa Monica High

#11      Kassandra Martinez             C/Utility          San Dimas High/Mt. San Antonio College

#12      Miriam Estrada                      OF                   Artesia High

#13      Alexis Vargas                        SS                   Anaheim High/Santa Ana College

#16      Valerie Jorgensen                P/1B                Pacifica High/Phoenix College

#18      Angeleen Silva                      C/1B                Garces High

#19      Leiloni Pina                            3B/1B              Cerritos High/Monroe College

#20      Jazmine Macias                     OF                   La Mirada High

#21      Alexa Diaz                              OF                   Cerritos High/Westcliff University

#22      Arianna Silva                         P/OF               Garces High/University of San Diego

#27      Anissa Vital                           P/2B                Mary Star of the Sea High

#28      Mya Diaz                                C                     Anaheim High/Hope University

#42      Jessica Lopez                       OF                   Los Osos High

#61      Bailey Jacobsen                   1B/OF             Cypress High/Chaminade University

#88      Kamryn Lopez                      P/SS                (Bakersfield) Frontier High

Nicole Enriquez                    2B/OF             (Bakersfield) Liberty High/University of

                                                                        the Pacific

Jayline Sloss                         P                      (Bakersfield) Liberty High/CSU, San

                                                                        Marcos

           

Pool Play games on Field 3 at Yorba Regional Park

Saturday        3:00 vs. Cal Rebels

Saturday        4:45 vs. [El Dorado Hills] Foothill Gold-Stinson

Sunday           4:45 vs. [New Braunfels, TX] AZ Bombers-Williams

Sunday           8:15 vs. [Moorpark] So Cal Choppers-Ashley

Monday morning will be the first playoff game. The opponent, time and location of the game will be determined at the coaches draw, which is tonight and will be held at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa.

Monday evening will be the opening ceremonies at the Huntington Beach Central Park. Bracket play will continue Tuesday morning and run through Friday with the championship game held later in the day at Deanna Manning Stadium. The championship game will be streamed on FloSoftball Channel.

 

 

 

 

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